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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Fulfillment through furniture

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

There are many hallmarks of adulthood: your first real job, your first apartment, your first car loan, your first audit ... but there's nothing quite like buying your first piece of grown-up furniture to make you feel like you've finally arrived.

By "grown-up" furniture, I mean more than a chair that isn't red and blue plastic and made by Fisher Price and covered with removable Pooh decals. I mean something that doesn't come with assembly instructions "fit tab B into slot B" written in six different languages; something that doesn't have a perforated cardboard back thinner than a paper towel tube.

Not that there's anything wrong with the hollow tile block home decorating motif. Many functional and sort-of safe bookshelves have been lovingly created from scrap lumber and concrete blocks, not to mention matching coffee tables, end tables, dining room tables, benches, entertainment centers, even entire sets of patio furniture.

But after a while, it gets to you. You look around your house at your swap meet pareu curtains, or worse, your swap meet beach towel curtains, or worst of all, your swap meet Bob Marley tie-dye flag curtains held up by duct tape and clothespins, and you say to yourself, "There's got to be something more."

There's got to be something more than your uncle's reject card table with the wedges of wood underneath three of the legs to keep it from wobbling and the permanently stained and sticky fake-leather top. There's got to be something more than cardboard boxes covered with bedspreads for nightstands. There's got to be something more than the slippy old shelf that used to be a headboard, then a china hutch, then a plant stand, and finally, when it couldn't handle much weight, a rubber slipper rack near the back door.

After a while, you realize "this is the same bed my grandmother slept in as a little girl!" isn't all that nostalgic when you're talking about a mattress.

After a while, you start to think maybe the old door on two saw horses holding up your computer isn't the most comfortable desk.

After a while, you crave something made of real wood, something delivered (delivered!) to your house in one piece, something that wasn't owned by anyone else, ever.

Even if it's just a tiny nightstand or a little desk or a shelf that isn't even big enough to hold a quarter of your book collection, your first piece of grown-up furniture has an amazing effect. It changes you.

You start thinking about stuff like future grandchildren setting up their future homes and saying, "You see this nightstand? This belonged to my grandmother. Nice, yeah?" as you carefully spray on another coat of Pledge and gently wipe with your old swap meet pareu.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.