Look what I found, crumpled up and crammed behind the right drawer of my “new” writing desk!
Close inspection tells me that it is the Certificate of Birth for Baby Girl Seifert, Anne Louise, born November 3, 1933, to Joseph Nicholas (42) and Claire Wilmoth Schamberger (39) of 307 Cedarcroft Road in Baltimore. It is a copy from the Baltimore Bureau of Vital Records, and it’s dated June 11, 1951, which means the desk is at least that old. There are so many things I love about this: it gives me a tiny peek into the desk’s history; the baby girl’s name was spelled with an “e” as my sister spells hers; and the desk hasn’t travelled too far afield, since it has fetched up now in my studio in Homeland. One of these days, I will drive past 307 Cedarcroft Road and let my imagination wander.
When I wrote a post about Virginia Woolf’s belief in a room of one’s own [Channeling Virginia Woolf] I didn’t quite realize that the room is almost the least of it – the desk inside the room is the true touchstone. First, I experimented with an oak secretary desk. It is the first good piece of furniture I ever bought, in an antique store in Cape Town. It didn’t work, though, because I kept banging my knees on the cupboards underneath.
Next, I tried a gorgeous round, leather-topped table that had been passed on by our across-the-lane neighbors. But, as perfect as it is for actual writing, it is less perfect for the teetering piles of books and research papers that kept sliding off the rounded edges, so I had to think again.
At The Turnover Shop I found a marvelous piece that reminded me of one of those old campaign desks that fold up on themselves. I brought it home and loved it … but then, gradually, it also presented problems, in the form of tendonitis, because it was made for writing on pieces of paper not for typing on a laptop, and my wrists were left dangling in mid-air. It broke my heart, but I had to give up on that one too.
It was back to The Turnover Shop where I saw a desk that was the perfect dimension – but it was painted, and I’ve tended to have a bit of an aversion to painted wood. Except that now my stylish niece has been collecting shabby chic furniture that looks terrific. So I took a chance. After a day of lung clogging scraping and sanding and distressing, I believe I have finally hit the mark. Now, I sit by the window at my old-new writing desk, dreaming and imagining and thinking – in the crevices of the actual writing – as I look out on the trees and the comings and goings along the lane. Doves come to perch on the window sill to coo, and I feel that I have found a little nest of my own.