Tuesday, September 30, 2008
The Roll Top Desk
I received a catalog in the mail the other day. I receive many catalogs, and generally recycle them without a glance. But this one was full of toys and games and urged me to "share your favorite toy memory". It was supposed to sell us the old fashioned toys we remembered from our youth. I leafed through, first noticing that those good old fashioned toys had new fashioned prices, and that many also had a more modern twist than I liked. But then I saw it. A tiny version of a roll top desk with matching chair! It all came back to me.
In 1938, when I was six years old, my mother had finally agreed to divorce my father and my mother, brother and I moved from the big house to a small, semi-detached house two blocks away. We lived there for one year, until the divorce became final. It was a nice little house. Downstairs we still had living room, dining room and kitchen - just scaled down in size from the other house. Also like the other, and like many homes in those days, there was a pantry attached to the kitchen. Since there were many shelves and cabinets built in to the kitchen, my mother found this pantry almost unnecessary for her supplies, except for a few shelves where she stored canned goods. She asked me if I would like to use it as a playroom. About this time, a friend asked Mother if she would like a desk for me, since her child had outgrown it. The little desk and chair were placed in the pantry, which then became my "office". My sister was twenty years old at the time, and was a secretary in an office in the city. I adored my sister, and wanted to be just like her, so this pleased me no end.
The best part was that it was a roll top desk. I had never seen one before. I rolled that top up and down until it was a wonder it didn't break off. And there were many cubby holes and four or five drawers that offered endless possibilities. (This one doesn't have as many.) I busied myself at that desk every day. My dolls sat around the room, and I gave them orders and dictation. I was a very efficient boss. I had a little box for my pencils and pens and a space for crayons and stacks of paper.
In 1939, when I turned seven, we moved from the little house to an apartment. The little desk disappeared, as did so many things. My mother's favorite thing was throwing things away. I suppose the desk went the way of so much. Maybe that's why I tend to be a hoarder. Never want to part with anything that just might come in handy later, or maybe one of the kids will be able to use. I was pretty proud of myself eight years ago when I moved to the tiny place I live in now. I got rid of a ton of things. But I guess I was really cheating, because one of my daughters took the house I was leaving, and I have to admit that I left many, many things in the attic. They're still there.
If I had an extra $275. (plus tax and shipping) I would be tempted to buy that little roll top desk in the catalog for myself. I could put it in the back room, and who knows? - maybe my grandson would be able to use it one day.