The Bureau

June 19, 2011
By chume SILVER, Skillman, New Jersey
chume SILVER, Skillman, New Jersey
7 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
“If you wait to do everything until you're sure it's right, you'll probably never do much of anything.”

It is a large, thick mahogany bureau situated in the corner of my parents’ bedroom. Her wood is dark and chocolaty with swirls of auburn, and she is as tall as my belly button. She rests sturdily on four feet, which give her a squat, animal appearance, especially when the middle drawer is left slightly open – a bottom lip jutting out in defiance. The afternoon sunlight glistens in the shiny brass drawer handles. There are delicate flowery carvings in the wood on the sides, as if to remind us she is in fact, a female. Her surface is glossy and reflective, catching the rays of sun. A flat, gold- leaf rimmed mirror lies facing up, where two tiny porcelain sparrows are perched, watching their never-changing, colorful reflections. Next to them is a soft wooden jewelry box whose lid sits slightly crooked due to the broken hinges. There is a painted clay Peter Pan boy, whose shadow behind him on the pale olive green wall mimics his form. He sits on a log with his slender legs crossed, while he plays the flute. I imagine his music to float sweetly and soothingly. There is an oriental frame with intricate petals and leaves snaking around the photograph it holds.
This picture is bitter-sweet to me. A “famous” photograph in my household, my brother, about ten years old, hangs on my father’s shoulder, whose hand is wrapped around his back. They are both perfectly and purely happy, I see it in their crisp blue eyes and their wide grins. The sky behind them is gray and they stand in front of beautiful flower field speckled with different colored flowers. This photo is bittersweet because I remember this day very clearly. My family and I were in the car leaving the beach in Nantucket and pulled over when we saw the flower field. I was in a terrible mood, mainly because my feet were still coated in wet sand and I hated that feeling more than anything. So I had refused to get out of the car and take the picture with my brother and dad. I remember watching from the window, scowling and being cranky. I heard the muffled sound of my mother’s voice. ‘Smiiiile!’ I knew I had no real reason to be upset, which made everything worse. Now, that picture has appeared everywhere. From picture slideshows at family reunions, to framed photographs and photo albums. I see it sitting on countertops in relatives’ homes. Their beaming faces and the blooming garden behind them would normally make me happy, except that they remind me of the day I was too sulky to just step out of the car and smile at a camera. As selfish as this may sound, I simply wish I were in the picture with them.

A portrait done by my grandmother hangs above this all. It is from a photograph of me age three, standing in front of small orange flowers. My summery dress matches my eyes, and this blue satisfyingly contrasts the orange background. My hair is cropped short and looks airy and sun-kissed. Grandmere knows how I feel about the eyes she painted on me. They remind me of alien’s eyes. I can feel the heavy solid blue color weighing me down as I walk across the room. Sometimes if I stare long enough, I forget that the little girl is supposed to be me, and her unfamiliar icy blue stare gives me goose bumps.

As I sit here on my parent’s bed staring at this bureau, I realize I haven’t actually ever seen it before. Yes I have noticed it; I know it has held my mother’s socks and pajamas for years – my father’s soft cashmere sweaters that are always folded so neatly. But I haven’t actually ever seen it. A few nights ago I was reading my book in the cream-colored armchair that faces this corner of the room. I thought about the unusually tragic acquiescence of the dresser, who sits day in and day out crowded with my family’s possessions. A black ribbon hung limply out of one of the half-open drawers - a tongue. Just before I turned off the lamp beside me, I noticed the shadows on the walls behind each of the objects resting on her surface. Peter Pan was pallid, and appeared frailer than I had remembered him. Everything seemed almost tired and drained of energy. Just as I was about to pity a clay boy and a dresser, I reminded myself of this absurdity and remembered I was staring at a large piece of carved wood. How my mind can wander sometimes.

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