Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Christmas Elephant

For the past few days I have been working on a project to improve a Christmas "gift" I received a few years ago. This "gift" has been a thorn in my side for quite some time. I have actually shed tears over it, and believe me they were not tears of joy. I know I sound ungrateful here, but maybe my explanation will put it all in context.

To truly understand how all of this came about I must first explain a little bit of history. My husband was married before me, and his ex-wife and his brother's wife did not get along. I will not go into the details here, but their feud made things very uncomfortable in the family. My in-laws felt that they had to buy their daughter-in-laws the exact same gift for Christmas. Unfortunately for me, this tradition continued after my husband and I married.

My sister-in-law and I are as different as night and day, but one thing we have in common is that we do not allow shoes to be worn in our homes. My husband and his brother did not grow up this way and although I have successfully trained my husband to take his shoes off my sister-in-law still has problems with her husband. We both have problems with family members who want to just traipse in with who knows what on their shoes. This was the start of the "gift".

My sister-in-law had told our mother-in-law that she was thinking of buying a small (keep the word small in you head, it will be important later) bench she found in a catalog. She wanted to place it by her front door to make it easier for everyone to take their shoes off.

My mother-in-law decided that for Christmas she would have my father-in-law make her a shoe bench rather than buy one for her from the catalog. Of course they also decided that I had to have one too, so we would have the same gift. My mother-in-law even asked me about it by showing me the catalog and asking if I liked the bench. I told her that it was nice, but that I had absolutely no room in my house for any furniture and would have no place to put that bench. (again remember the word small associated with the catalog bench) I'm not sure why she asked me, when she had no intention of listening to what I said. *lol*

Christmas comes and my sister-in-law calls to tell me that there is something at her house for me and that we needed to bring the truck when we came up for Christmas dinner. She had this "tone" to her voice. When we get to her house I discovered what the "tone" was all about. My father-in-law had built each of us the biggest shoe bench I have ever seen. (Remember the word small?) It measures 55" long (almost 4 1/2 feet) and over 20" wide. Three people could sit on this bench side by side. The thing to remember here is that I live in a single-wide.

My in-laws have been to my home many, many times. They know how much room we have and yet......

As you can see the bench was constructed out of scrap lumber and upholstered with stark white taffeta. The picture hides how bad it was, but trust me it was not something either of us wanted displayed in our homes. I said not a word. I love my husband's parents and would NEVER want to hurt their feelings, but I could not imagine what I was going to do. My husband and I took it home and I had to shove all my furniture together to get it in the house. I cried.

For the past few years I have covered the bench with a blanket and dealt with it. We cannot dispose of it because it would hurt his parents feelings. I finally decided that if I was going to have to live with this thing I would try to at least make it pretty. Last week I purchased some paint and fabric.

Trying to re-upholster the bench with a toddler running around was difficult, but after several hours of work I finished it. I am pleased with the results. I painted the front panel country brown and added a piece of wall border to pull the fabric colors together.

I still hate it in my living room, I really do, but at least now it is pretty to look at. One day, when we move into the farm house, I will have more space for it and perhaps I will come to enjoy it. For now, I'm just glad I have a little bit of creativity in me. Maybe my poor sister-in-lay will get an idea or two from me and improve her bench too.

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