When I was a boy, maybe 8 or 9, and my father a young man, the two of us went shopping at Derbyshire’s Unpainted Furniture. My sister and I needed a toy box. I recall meandering around the store, looking at book shelves, desks, and tables. The air smelt of freshly cut wood. All the furniture pieces were smooth and soft. I liked sliding my hand across each desk and table top, knowing I wouldn’t snatch my hand quick away because it was bit – a splinter.
Once a we found a proper toy box and placed in the back of our blue, wood-paneled station wagon, we brought it home. Dad spread newspapers across the garage floor, set the box upon it, and began to stain it, a brown stain, deep and rich. Finally, after a few coats of stain and a few more coats of shellac, our toy box rested alone in the garage, drying and waiting. It wanted to be filled with toys and a few days later it was.
For years, I ran to that toy box, opened its lid, and rummaged for the desired treasure: a matchbox car, a Star Wars action figure, a baseball mitt. Every joy I could think of was in that wooden chest. Today, 35-years-later, that toy box still rests in my parents’ home and it’s still heavy with my old toys.
A few hours ago, my wife and I returned to Derbyshire’s. We purchased bookshelves for my son’s room. He’s nine now. The same age I was when I first inhaled the welcoming aroma of wood, when I felt its soft, smooth skin.
My dad, near 70, stills talks about Derbyshire’s. It’s a great place to buy furniture, he says. His hair has turned white. Mine is graying more and more each day.
It was good to return to that furniture store, to smell and feel the wood. It was good to touch the memories of a toy box and a great dad who filled it with toys for me.