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It had been, to put it mildly, a very rough year.

I had just gone through a divorce, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. I had also moved out of my beautiful house into a cheap apartment, taking two children with me. I was suddenly making ends meet on one income instead of two. Add into that a trip to the emergency room that put a serious dent in my savings, an argument with my best friend and the passing of my dear grandmother, and it’s safe to say life had gone from bad to worse.

During all this time, I had never felt more alone. I felt lost, discarded and cast aside.

dresser

So when I drove past the house at the end of the block and saw the dresser sitting there on the curb, I had to stop. I pulled up to stare at the monstrosity. It had obviously been created during a time when opulent moldings and layers of paint were in vogue. The feet on the bottom weren’t exactly even, so it stood at a proud slant on the concrete. Stuck to it with a piece of tape was a paper with the word “Free.”

Perhaps it was the fact that the dresser looked so abandoned out there, standing all alone in front of a fine house. The sky had darkened and thunder sounded in the distance. Soon this old piece of furniture would be at the mercy of the elements, and what then? Would it ever find a home after the damage the water would surely do?

And just like that, the anger rose up. The unfairness of it all gripped me, drove me out of the car and over to the curb. I had a monster of a trunk, but that dresser still almost didn’t fit. I drove home with it, driving slowly with my emergency flashes on. I got there just before the rain came pouring down.

I was determined I would restore that awful dresser to its original glory. I began to hauling it out to the yard as soon as the sunny days came. I scraped layer after layer of paint, employing elbow grease, then harsh chemicals when the elbow grease didn’t work. I pulled out the stuck drawers, cleaned them and sanded them down. I found new knobs at a yard sale for five cents each.

Refinished dresser, refinished life

I found the perfect paint — a medium green with bright white for the trim — and handed my children the paintbrushes. I watched as they took their time, getting as much paint on themselves as they did on the dresser. I felt happy for the first time in over a year.

The dresser took center stage in the corner of my bedroom. I eventually changed the whole room to accommodate it, finding new sheets and comforters in green and white, and making my own curtains of lighter green to hang from simple rods on the windows. The dresser sat in the perfect spot to catch the waning light of the day, where it would show off the marks and streaks of a paint job done by two little ones.

Today, the children are growing up. They barely remember painting the dresser. I have moved on and remarried. We left that little apartment behind a few years ago, and now we live in a modest house on the outskirts of town. That dresser is still in my bedroom, in the corner, where it serves as a reminder of how we met — both lost and abandoned then, but now, both of us have found our place.

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.