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  • Jennifer Z. Major

Side gig: playing with a finely chopped tree.

(Narrator's voice over...we now return to Jennifer's efforts to turn a piece of poorly maintained furniture into a thing of beauty...)

To recap: We bought this piece in the summer (for 125$) and intended it for a big sports charity auction in November. We do this every year, because each family on the team is expected to help with fundraising and the big event is an auction, and each family donates a large item for a live auction, then smaller items for the silent auction. Our family's thing is antiques, and we usually do well with our contribution. But yes, it's a lot of work. But I enjoy it.

When the vertigo hit me in October, I was >thisclose< to being done. Talk about frustrating!

Once I'd recovered enough to get back to work, I dove back into finishing the restoration. I'd lost 2-3 weeks of valuable time being sick, and I didn't have a whole lot of time left. Since we don't have a ventilated workshop, and our garage has a vintage car in it, I needed to find somewhere to do some power sanding.

Our friends S and R live nearly and have a big garage and graciously took a batch of cinnamon buns as rent, (or, will, as soon as I can get baking) so my husband and son transported the hutch over there. Once I was done with the last of the heavy sanding, we brought the hutch home and I set up shop in our living room. I had to be done by November 29th, because the charity auction was on the 30th.

Let's just say that our house was slightly messy. For weeks!!!

I did have what I thought was a really small problem that I thought would be an easy fix, but it became a whole lot more complicated than I originally anticipated.

See that dark line, dead centre? There was a crack in the top, and I had to repair it. So, I filled it with wood filler, and had to wait a day for it to day. No worries, since I worked on the doors and drawer fronts...

Normally when I do a cosmetic repair on an antique, I use Crayola crayons or pencil crayons. This time? Neither worked, and yes, I tried about 25 different shades! It took several days of trying, failing, cleaning up the fail, and trying again.

What did work??

Eye shadow.

I kid you not! Elf eye shadow! It worked perfectly!

Once that was done, we spent a day trying to get the backing for the mirror support done properly. Once that was finished, my husband held the mirror frame in place and I took this photo. I really wanted to see the finished product.

On Saturday morning, we schlepped it (in pieces) down to the event site and assembled the baby. We returned that evening, and before the auction started, I took a shot of it in the wild. We were both hoping it would go for 400-500$.

Much to our joy, it went for 600$!!!

We were thrilled!!

And, as one of our sons said "now you don't have to think about furniture for a while!"

No kidding!

So why the "side gig"? Well, it's not a side gig, because I make zero profit, other than the bragging rights after the annual auction. And antique restoration has been a hobby of mine for 30 years. I enjoy it, and it's rather cathartic.

But every writer needs to not just write. They need other creative and practical outlets to balance the time and energy put into writing, otherwise they go crazy, and make everyone else crazy along with them. Well, crazy-er.

Here's the thing, when the various Spotify playlists are on repeat, and the not too intellectually challenging-yet carefully patient-work of things like sanding and varnishing are taking the hours required, a lot of thinking happens. Plot lines, story world, dialogue, scene construction, even wardrobe, all of those important elements get sorted for when there's time to get it all on paper.

And as I worked slowly and carefully, because one does not rush through restoration, I got to appreciate the skill of the craftsman who made the piece, probably around 1890-1910.

All those precise corners, the beveled mirror with the original silvering, the perfect dovetailed joints, and the russet-honeyed tones of the red oak, they all said the same thing...

Some great stories never utter a single word.

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