Today, I was walking to Trader Joe’s when I came across an art fair. It seemed pretty run-of-the-mill: mostly paintings and jewelry, a few clothing booths, and so forth. On my way out, the last booth I passed was selling furniture and household goods made from reclaimed wood. What caught my eye were large wooden chests, almost like foot lockers.
Instantly I was taken back to my childhood, I had one of these that my parents always called my “toy chest”. It was nowhere near as beautiful as this one, but it sat at the end of my bed as a bedrock of growing up. Over the years the toys inside changed, but it was always there, and probably still remains in my Mom’s house. We are not speaking right now, and I am not sure my toy chest would survive a cross-country move. It got pretty beat up over the years, the casters each came off one at a time. The corner had the finish scraped off entirely by my alto saxophone, as I sat on it practicing. When I was four we moved into a different house, and I only remember a few things from before that move but one of them was pride in telling one of my parents’ friends that my toy chest was coming with us.
All of this came back to me in an instant as I walked through the booth. I ran through the potential scenarios where I could use this chest. Did I have a need to store something? Not really. Where in my apartment would it go? No clue. Do I need it? Of course not.
I asked how much they cost and the answer was about what I expected. High, but rightfully so, and not the kind of amount you spend on a whim on a Sunday afternoon. I thanked them and walked over to Trader Joe’s.
The entire time I was in the store, I could not get the chest out of my mind. When I finished checking out, I walked back over to the art fair. There were more people at the booth now, and both of the men working there were showing off cutting boards and dressers.
I walked back up to the chest and lifted up the lid. It was heavy. The scent of fresh pine was immediate. Actual fresh pine, not the chemical smell you get with cleaning supplies. I asked one of the men working the booth if they had a card, and he fumbled around until he handed me a small slip of paper with the artist’s name, phone number and AOL email address. He said they were from San Diego.
Walking back to my car, I thought about how if I had children (I am probably not going to), I would want them to have this chest, or one like it. For it to be there for them the way my toy chest was there for me. I thought about the childhood I would want to give my imaginary children, about the family I would have. I thought about the life choices I have made that put me in this place, walking alone in Los Angeles on a Sunday afternoon.
But mostly I thought about the chest. I am still thinking about it.