Monday, September 14, 2015

This Old Desk

This old desk wasn't the most expensive item in the shop when new in the 1890s. In fact, it was mostly machine made with cheap pressed hardware and box nails holding the pigeon holes in the writing area. It was made out of red oak with dovetailed poplar drawer backs.

The story goes that during his teenage years, my father worked for a local farmer in Kingwood, New Jersey. This was the 1930s, and he labored hard for whatever they would give. He saw this desk was being discarded (or sold), and he bargained with the farmer to buy it. After buying it, he had to get it home... So he carried it for three miles.

He trudged past the property where the local New Jersey Bund was teaching children of German decent how to Goose-step and wave Nazi flags. He carried the desk until his back went out. This was the first of many times he would injure his back.

Dad went off to college in Chicago and Connecticut, with his desk stored at home. He ventured to Alaska, and eventually back to New Jersey to start his family. That same desk would become a fixture in our home as the children grew, eventually handed off to the older boys to help with their studies, landing in the boy's room in the basement - becoming my place to draw and paint.

One day in the 1970s, I got curious. The lion's head pull on the slant top was staring at me from my bed... What was he hiding? I found a screwdriver and pulled the lion from the oak writing surface. Inside I found a note!

"Congratulations, You have the same curiosity I had. It is March, 23 1965. The Gemini capsule is orbiting the earth. -- Mark Zdepski"

My older brother Mark had place a time capsule inside. I was opening it over 10 years later. He was in Alaska working as a Geologist on the oil pipeline.

This old desk got abused by my studio habits... Cadmium red and yellow smears, spills of India ink and multiple scars from Xacto knives. Each year getting trashed a bit more.

My younger brother James took the desk with him as he built his home and family. The desk found its way from the upstairs to the garage as it fell further into disrepair. Twenty-five years later I got the phone call.

"You want that old desk?"


So I traveled to the Delaware Valley and picked it up. I was able to shoehorn it into my Nissan to get it back to Virginia, but just barely.

I spent 2 days washing and scraping, gluing and screwing, lightly sanding and waxing to get it into a stabilized situation. This desk has little monetary value, but it does have family history. I've fixed it to the point that it should make it through another 50+ years of service.

Now serving my son Nikita, as he starts his first year of high school and adds his own stories to the desk.

and yes, I've added a time capsule of my own:

"For my father, Stephen Zdepski, who carried this desk three miles on his back. For my brother Mark, who wrote a time capsule about the Gemini Astronauts. For the years of service this desk gave me as I prepared for Art School, and for my son Nikita, as he begins High School. Much Love, Paul Zdepski - Sept 13, 2015"