There comes a time in every man’s life when, just like a thousand rotten eggs to the face, he can’t deny anymore the fact that he’s getting older.
Most people reach this stage in their teens, when they get a driver’s permit, or maybe a little later, the first time they willingly decide to go with the shirt-tuck to a social event.
For me, it happened earlier this week, when I was getting clothes out for the morning, took a look at my dresser and thought: “Hey, I should refinish this!”
It was the kind of out-of-nowhere impulse that couldn’t be explained. Where did it come from? Why now?
Except for many well-spent afternoons watching Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor fumble around his garage on “Home Improvement,” I’d never had any serious thoughts about fixing or building anything in the past. What are you crazy? My house was just where I lived. I didn’t bother it, and it didn’t bother me. The arrangement was perfect. Why make waves?
But this time, after what must have been a million mornings I’d looked at and rifled through that dresser — the same one I’d had since I was a baby — I felt the urge to change it somehow. Modernize it. Make it mine.
Maybe — if I’m being totally honest — it was a reaction to a recent trip I took to Tampa for an old high school buddy’s bachelor party. According to my calculations, he is now the 987th of my friends to be have gotten engaged this summer.
All of my friends may have wives and babies and money and a future, I thought, buried somewhere deep in my subconscious. But — do they have a refinished dresser?
The answer: No way, Jose. And that meant I was winning.
So I got to work. It didn’t matter that I had sub-zero woodworking experience and had to watch YouTube videos just to find out where to start. I was a man! Experience was irrelevant. And as I drove to Home Depot, so proud of my new soon-to-be masterpiece, words my father once uttered to me rang inside my head.
“Someday, sonny boy (he called me “sonny boy”), you’ll be big like me, and you’ll walk into a Home Depot — you’ll walk right through the front door,” he said. “And you’ll pretend not to be confounded by 90% of the inventory on the shelves.”
Well, let me tell you: Pops was never wrong. It’s a coming-of-age ritual, the panicked Home Depot visit. Walking down an aisle, realizing it’s the wrong aisle, walking down another aisle. Ah, what a rite of passage. An employee asks if you need help, but you quickly shrug him away, rattling off words you heard on YouTube instructional videos in a desperate stupor.
“Uh, no, I just — lacker,” you say. “Just finishing the, uh, polyurethane. Looking for MinWax? Maybe some semi-gloss. Ha.” And then you scurry away.
Oh, what a feeling!
When I got home, though, my dresser just slumped there, staring me down like in one of those duels at the end of Westerns, like its plumb seen too much in its day to go down without a fight. The only difference was, dangling at my sides weren’t two six-shooters; it was plastic bags full of stain and seal and sandpaper. A different kind of death.
And clinging to my dresser’s sides were remnants of my childhood: speckled paint, a few chips in its baseboard, a scratch down the length of its top drawer. I didn’t remember how any of those marks got there, but I knew I must have made them, back when I was young and didn’t realize that some scars last forever.
I was a kid then, young and stupid and all those other clichés. But it was time to paint over all that. I was different now. Modern and together and so completely grown up.
The only thing left was finding out how in the world to work the electric sander.
BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR