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Pine floor forest

At first glance, I seem very simple. I’m just another plank of wood on your floor, one among many. Sure, I’m beautiful — after all, I’m heartwood pine. I have tiny holes and knots and marks. To say I have personality is an understatement.

But I also have a story. A pretty good one, I think.

Right now I am beneath your feet, but many decades ago I was soaring high above you, growing tall and straight in a forest full of trees. Did you know that smaller trees in a forest often die out because they don’t get enough sunlight? I was one of the lucky ones. The sunlight saw it fit to shine right down on me, and so I grew fast, spreading out my branches to take in more of everything — more sun, more air, more water.

Squirrels absolutely loved me, and I adored them. Woodpeckers? Not so much. There was a raccoon who chose to call me home for a while, and that’s a story in and of itself, believe me. We would be here all day if I got into that.

Then came the men with their big machines, the smell of oil and gas rising up with the noise, and then my life took the first step in the long journey that brought me from the forest and into your home. There was the mill, where everything was even louder. Then there was the truck, and more scents of oil and diesel, and then there was that first house.

Life in that first house

What a fine house it was! The men handled me with such care. I was laid down softly, oh-so carefully, and fastened there with the finest of nails and glues. The whole house was soon filled with the scent of pine, and before long the family moved in. The man had a loud, booming voice. The woman wore skirts that rustled against us all like the leaves of the forest, both soft and stiff at the same time. But my favorite was the little boy, who got right down on his knees and ran his wooden trucks across every board, using the lines and knots as mileposts on his imaginary road.

Over time I took on the patina of a life well-loved. See that nick there? That came from the day the lady of the house dropped a saucer. Oh, how she cursed! She cursed like a sailor when no one was around. See that long line, the one that shows up only when the light hits a certain way? That’s from a new toy the boy got for Christmas, this one with metal wheels. And that little dip, the one that you can barely feel? That’s because of my place, which was right near the fireplace, where the man would often stand after a long day of work, sighing and holding his hands out to the fire.

The boy grew up, and the man passed away, and the woman kept the house for years, but then she was gone too. How long did we all sit idle? The days stretched into years. There was mostly silence, sometimes the occasional howl of the wind, sometimes the creaking of old, tired walls. It was a lonely time.

But then, you came along.

A life reclaimed

The doors were thrown open and the sunlight came in with you, and then you stood over the fine hardwood floor and gasped. You moved so carefully, as if you might wipe away the marks of age by taking the wrong step. Two days later a crew appeared with their tools and their laughter, and they pried me up from the place where I had held court for so long. And now, here I am — on the floor of your fine new home, just another of the many reclaimed planks of pine that grace your living room.

Here’s the best part: You have two little girls. They run their plastic ponies over the racetrack created by the straight lines. They lay on their bellies with crayons and paper in front of them and draw for hours. They bounce balls to each other, giggling at the way they sometimes bounce them to the ceiling — when you aren’t watching, of course.

See that little scrape? Right there, at the corner? You did that. You don’t remember it, but you created it when you moved the coffee table in. You are already leaving your mark.

This is what it’s like to be a reclaimed slice of history. I’m just another plank of pine on your floor, but I have a story. I appreciate that you recognized it, and chose to put me in a place where I could build up even more character, one year at a time.

 

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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.