Have you ever purchased a piece of furniture only to realize you’d made a dreadful mistake? Mrs. Chatterbox and I made a regrettable decision when we visited Paris on our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.
Our trip had been a bust; much of the city was on strike; all the museums, monuments, and many of the churches were closed. Trains were also shut down so we couldn’t leave town. Bored, we decided to kill time at the Paris flea market which, unfortunately as it turned out, happened to be open.
We found a massive armoire that we thought perfect for hiding the ugly big screen TV in our living room. Crafted in the 1740s, it was almost ten feet tall. It cost nearly as much as our trip. Our judgment might have been impacted by our disappointment that Paris had shut its door on us, but we decided the armoire was just the gift to give each other to celebrate our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. We arranged for it to be crated and shipped home.
(Note: If you ever buy anything large in Europe, pay in advance and have it shipped home PAID IN FULL. Otherwise, the price will triple by the time it’s delivered to you. Also, you’re paying by size rather than weight, so don’t be stupid like we were and ship it home empty.)
Delivery was delayed by cargo handler strikes in Paris, Antwerp, Montreal and Seattle. Nearly six months after we returned from Paris, a truck arrived with the crated armoire. I couldn’t help thinking that if the damn thing had been shipped by frigate in the 1740s when it was made, it would have gotten here quicker, even without a Panama Canal.
CJ was home from college, and he and I worked up a sweat prying open the crate. When he looked inside he laughed and said, “Shit, it’s another wooden box! Are there dozens of these things inside, each one smaller than the next like Russian dolls?”
I wiped the sweat from my face and assured him there was only one box to uncrate, but it did seem ridiculous that we’d paid to box a big box. CJ summoned a few friends and it took all of us to drag the behemoth armoire into the living room; it was solid oak and weighed a ton. I hoped it wouldn’t crash through the floor. After we lifted the big screen TV into the armoire CJ, our mechanical wizard, hooked up all the wires so our entertainment system would work. When the task was completed we shared cokes and admired our work. The armoire, looking like an ornate confessional, nearly touched the ceiling and made our big screen TV look miniscule. I could now go to confession without leaving the house, and I could watch Antiques Roadshow while making my contrition.
CJ, who’d grown so tall by then that he loomed over me, waited until his friends had left to put his arm on my shoulder and say, “Dad, I love you. But there’s no way in hell I’m ever going to help you move this stupid thing!”
I swigged the coke and said,” You poor bastard; hasn’t it occurred to you that as an only child you’re gonna inherit it?”
As it turned out, CJ didn’t inherit the colossal armoire. The floor of our living room began to buckle beneath its weight. And it might have been old but it wasn’t constructed well and it began to tilt like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Adding insult to injury, our TV never got good reception in it. We finally called an antique gallery that agreed to place it in one of their upcoming auctions. We learned that the armoire might be old but its value was limited because it wasn’t made from decorative wood like walnut or cherry, and it was too big to be practical in most homes today. We were also obligated to pay three hundred dollars for pick up and delivery to their gallery, which would come from the proceeds.
Our Paris souvenir failed at auction; no one even bid on it. We’d been told that if it wasn’t sold we’d be notified so they could return it. Unfortunately for the gallery, they were unable to contact us because we’d moved away. Through a terrible oversight we’d failed to provide a forwarding address or phone number, so they were unable to return it to us.
Sometimes I almost feel bad about it.
P.S. If you think we were fools to give this up when you would have snapped it up in a New York minute, consider that our armoire was much bigger than the one pictured. And twice as heavy. It took five men and a dolly to remove it from our house. Also, our armoire wasn’t shiny walnut like this one, and it tilted. We spent a thousand dollars repairing our floor so we could sell the house.
Still want it?