The Sofge Files

Chance discovery surfaces sermons



(page 1 of 4)

Shannon Griffin

 

If desks could talk, mine would have a Brooklyn accent. It’s a steel-and-oak number — a midcentury behemoth — and someone carved the word, “chump” across the center drawer. On one side of the desk, the red paint has flaked away in the shape of a perfect speech bubble. The whole thing reminds me of old Superman comics in which editor Perry White shouts at reporter Clark Kent in the Daily Planet newsroom.

It isn’t just my made-in-Metropolis desk that’s vintage. On top of it sits a large glass jar that is filled with all sorts of odds and ends: old-fashioned clothespins, enameled pillboxes, assorted arrowheads. It’s a smorgasbord, to be sure, but each item is there for the same reason I allow a battered, ridiculously large desk to take up one corner of my living room: The moment I saw it, it told me a story.

Take the miniature brass notebook, engraved with “Chicago, Ill.,” that somehow makes its way to the bottom of my jar no matter how frequently I write in it. I don’t know anything about its original owner, but I like to think he was a bookie named Bernie who wore a bowler hat, suspenders and sock garters. The downward migration of the tiny notebook leads me to believe he was never very fond of sharing.

My jar is full of stories. Actually, it’s my belief that everything has a story, even if it’s unknown or made up. And stories are remarkable things. The best ones make me laugh or cry — preferably both. They teach me to notice the little details in life. They help me to make sense of a world I sometimes have trouble understanding, and they encourage me to empathize with other people. 

Because I love stories and seek them out, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when I decided I needed to do some organizing, I headed to the thrift store to buy some used file drawers.

 

“X” Marks the Spot

Aaron’s Attic, on North Monroe, is a maze of treasures, and their inventory constantly changes. It’s the perfect place to browse for an hour or two, especially if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. But I was a woman on a mission. For once, I knew precisely what I wanted.

Feathered hats, more glassware than you could shake a crystal candlestick at, empty picture frames — Aaron’s Attic had everything I didn’t need. After half an hour of searching, I began to despair of ever finding any file boxes, let alone the right ones. 

But, then, there they were: two vintage, metal, library-card-catalog file drawers resting on top of a bookshelf that was surrounded by plastic lawn ornaments, rose-patterned armchairs and, oddly enough, the remnants of an old carpet loom. It was as if a battle had been fought in someone’s great-grandmother’s attic, and the file boxes had dragged themselves through the carnage to safety on high ground.

I charged through the rubble, knocking aside a pair of pink plastic flamingos whose necks crossed to make an x-shape, and, with trembling fingers, raised the file boxes heavenward. “Huzzah!” I cried. Then I set out to find Rodney, who runs the store most days. At the time, I didn’t think much of the fact that the file boxes were full of used index cards. I may have even told Rodney, “There’s all kinds of garbage in these,” hoping he’d knock a few bucks off the price. 

It was the file boxes I was after, not their contents.

As a lover of all things vintage, I am also a lover of Clorox wipes. Scarcely 20 minutes passed from the time I left Aaron’s to the time when, thanks to the miracle of lemon-scented sodium hypochlorite, the file boxes sat gleaming on my kitchen table. That is, their exteriors gleamed. It was time to tackle the boxes’ innards.

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