October 1999 – The other day I sat down in the new easy chair Alison bought for me. I don’t know about other men with three children, but I rarely have time to enjoy this very comfortable sitting place. Remembering Archie Bunker, I always thought this was the birthright of every American male. You know, head of the household gets to sit in his chair while the wife cooks and cleans and the children bring his slippers, channel flipper and tall glass of iced tea. What a crock. This has never happened to me. There’s no time for this kind of stuff. Besides – for better or for worse –Alison and my three kids are liberated.
But after 15 years of marriage Alison decided to purchase some new living room furniture and my new chair was one of the new pieces. As I looked around the room I was impressed with the new couch, love seat and another chair we had recovered. Or is that reupholstered? What’s the difference? Anyway everything looked real nice. Then my eyes went to one of the two tables placed at each end of the sofa. Something didn’t look right. As I looked closer it appeared the new furniture had not been dusted. In fact, there was dust all over the legs and the top of the tables. Poor Alison is slipping here in her mid-30s, I thought. Believe me, my wife is legendary for her clean and orderly home. But then as I ran my finger across the tabletop, nothing happened. That’s strange, I thought. I tried another place and then I realized – this isn’t real dust at all. This is fake dust. On brand new furniture? What’s this all about? Then I noticed prominent chip marks on the top of the table. “At what garage sale did Alison pick this stuff up?” I asked to myself.
“Alison, come here for a minute, baby,” I said with a voice of concern. “What’s up with the fake dust and chip marks on our brand new furniture?”
“Oh, it’s supposed to look that way,” she responded. “It’s to give it a rustic, sort of antique look and feel. Don’t you like it?”
“First, let me say, I don’t want to know how much it costs, I really don’t. Ignorance is good for my soul here. But second, why in the world would anyone buy new furniture where the dust has been painted on – think about what I just said, painted-on dust– and someone in a shop somewhere has obviously taken a screwdriver and made a whole lot of scrapes and indentions in it on purpose? Our kids would be grounded for three months if they did to this furniture what someone got paid to do.”
“Well, I just thought the old look added personality to the room,” Alison said, looking at the table and smiling back at me.
“Let me ask you a question. You like to dust, right? You know where I’m going with this already but still let me ask you. What’s the point? Will the real dust bother you and the painted-on dust not?”
Readers, let me break in here to say Alison and I have reached a pivotal point in this conversation. For me, it’s time to back off and let it go. We often mock what we don’t understand, don’t we? For Alison, it’s time to remember not to tell me what this stuff costs.
“Well, you’ve got a point there,” she said.
“Will you let me get the video cam out and you say that again?”
“What?” she laughed.
“You know, the part when you say, ‘You’ve got a point.’”
Actually, I like the old, used-look tables more and more each day. Or, the tried-and-tested look, if you will. One thing I’ve learned in life is that newer is not always better. Change is not always for the best.
Earlier this year I read most of Tom Brokaw’s best-seller The Greatest Generation. I rarely am willing to pay $25 for a book but this one is worth every penny. The back cover of the book reads: “They came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War and went on to build modern America – men and women whose everyday lives of duty, honor, achievement and courage gave us the world we have today.”
It tells the stories of Americans who brought our country through the Great Depression and World War II. These were not perfect people, but there was a certain sense of decency to these people that is missing today. They are a people who held in high esteem Biblical morality. Honesty mattered. Remember the saying from that era, “A man’s word is his bond.” Keeping your home together mattered.
I’m talking about what some would call old fashioned values.
While they were not a perfect generation, still there is much we can learn by looking back on what made our country great during that most difficult and trying time in our nation’s history. I encourage you to add Mr. Brokaw’s book to your “must read” list. I think it should be required reading for every high school senior in this country.
In fact, I think I’ll sit down in my new chair right now to finish The Greatest Generation. You know, it’s hard to break one of these things in when you don't sit in it but once a week.
"Would someone bring me a tall glass of iced tea? Hello. Anyone. . .?"