Earlier this year we had the bittersweet task of emptying my father-in-law’s house after he passed away. Sad, of course, but sweet because he’d lived 90 productive years and loved the Lord. and his house was filled with testimonies to both. Hard as it was to divide up the physical treasures of a lifetime, it was also a bonding time of sharing family memories.
One of the keepsakes we brought home was this scarred and battered table. It had originally belonged to my husband’s grandfather, so it could easily be well over a century old. The table sat at his grandpa’s bedside when he lived in a one-room house on his farm in Osseo, Wisconsin. (More on this house in a future post.)
When I first brought the table home, I planned on painting it, then sanding a few spots to give it that homey, shabby chic look. But the more I stare at it, the more I want to leave it just as it is—scuff marks, paint spots, ugly nails and all. I love that my grandchildren can touch the grooves and dents—and maybe add their own—to a piece that belonged to their great-great-grandfather.
Friends and family seem to agree that it would be a shame to cover up evidence of a long and useful life. So I’m ignoring the chic and keeping the shabby.
So why can’t I do the same when I look in the mirror? Why do we (speaking for all of western womankind here) look at the lines that give proof to years of love and tears and laughter as something we need to cover up?
My husband and I went to see The Intern last week. How refreshing to watch a movie that respects and honors the life experience of senior citizens! If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.
I did some research on cultures that venerate age. Did you know that in Greece, the word for "old man" is a term of endearment? Their culture identifies old age with wisdom and closeness to God.
I also looked up the definition of shabby chic: A form of interior design where furniture and furnishings are either chosen for their appearance of age and signs of wear and tear or where new items are distressed to achieve the appearance of an antique.
The older I get, the more I wish I lived in a society that CHOSE people for their signs of wear and tear! Even better would be a culture where younger people copied our appearance rather than the other way around. This isn't likely to happen, but I think we should be telling ourselves and each other how valued we are.
I’m trying to learn a lesson from the life-worn table that greets guests by my front door. When a chubby, smooth little hand touches my face, I want to celebrate the life that has left telltale signs on my skin and be grateful it has given me treasures of experience and wisdom to pass on to future generations. As the Velveteen Rabbit says, “Once you are real, you can’t be ugly.”
How are you doing at embracing your shabby?