Articles From the February 1994 Unification News


Restoring Our Shelves

by Richard Van Loon--Falls Church, VA

"We need shelves," Keiko said with exasperation. ``I stack the clothes neatly - then the kids come and mess them up. Every time it's like that!"

I understood how my wife felt. The brick rambler we rented was too small and our three children managed to keep it in turmoil. Yet whenever we broached the topic of life in a pigpen, my fuse quickly sputtered to the keg. It wasn't just that I didn't like a junky house. Keiko and I wanted to live a more public life. But it wasn't easy having guests in our poorly furnished, overcrowded domain. It was a sore point for both of us.

This time I suppressed my frustration. I looked over her shoulder. Two beds stood against opposite walls. A homemade futon lay on the floor in between. Three chipped, mismatched chests of drawers lined the wall. And there, between the futon and the drawers, lay the scattered pile of clothing.

"All the wall space is taken," I said. "There's no place to put them."

But Keiko had an idea.

"Let's build shelves on top of the chests of drawers," she said.

We had built shelves in the day room. Varnished number-two pine boards fastened with screws. It was then Keiko had mentioned that she liked wooden furniture. I grew up in a home with practically nothing but, and I loved it. The fact that my wife did too had come as a happy surprise.

I had quickly invested in a sabre saw. Yet new wood for these bedroom shelves would be expensive. Anticipating this, Keiko suggested we restore some wooden shelves in the basement.

One of these shelves was made of untreated reddish wood. It had no top or bottom. We decided to use leftover pine to fill it out, then stain and varnish it. The other set of shelves would be more difficult. It was too large, would need to be dismantled, cut down to size, then rebuilt. It also had two coats of paint.

Keiko and I went to the paint store, picked out a stain and bought some paint stripper. Then I set to work.

I like working with wood. It reminds me of that Carpenter, Jesus. And when I work with my hands, my mind runs smooth and deep. Here it was, nearly the end of the first year of the Completed Testament Age. My thoughts turned to True Parents.

True Parents have been in our region a number of times. We've all seen or heard about Mother calling Father after each of her speeches, of their singing and laughing together. We've heard of how Father listens every time Mother gives her speech, following it line by line, the very speech Father himself wrote. What they are showing us is the perfect love between husband and wife.

My own parents had a rocky relationship. Being Catholic, they had never divorced, though I'm sure they had wanted to. I recalled a conversation between my older brother and me when we were teenagers.

We were talking about marriage and my brother had observed, quite pessimistically, that we would end up with wives like our mother and marriages like our parents'. At the time I was surprised to hear him say that. Over the years I have come to realize how true his theory was.

In my own marriage I have often reflected on my parents' relationship. What was it that drove them apart, what couldn't they overcome, what effect was their marriage having on mine? I knew as a parent I had often raised my children the way my parents had raised me. This phenomenon would even occur within one generation of our family. For example, if I would scold my eldest son for being irresponsible, he'd turn right around and scold his younger sister for being irresponsible, then she'd turn around and scold her young brother. It was automatic.

And then there were my wife's parents. What effects were carried over from them? As the transitional generation between the old and the new, what inborn limitations were we subconsciously clinging to?

Recently our pastor, Rev. McCarthy, has been talking about culture, about how it emanates from the relationship between a man and a woman. The old culture, founded by fallen Adam and Eve, is coming to an end, while the new culture, founded by True Parents, is just beginning. It is this very relationship between Father and Mother that is the core of God's providence, for it is here, in their union, where God abides. Our task is to link with our True Parents in such a way that we can inherit this new relationship between man and woman, between husband and wife. Only in this way will we be able to transcend the failed standards of the past and bring God down to earth.

I usually feel that doing God's will means conveying the truth. While this is true, I am realizing more and more lately that Tribal Messiahship begins with the person next to me. Without transcending the fallen standards of the past I have nothing to offer history, my children or my wife. Cooperating with her in building the shelves was, I felt, one small step in the right direction.

With this in mind, I devoted myself happily to the work. I cut the pine for the top and bottom, screwed them onto the first unit, then dismantled the second unit. I trimmed six inches off its height, cut it down from four to three feet wide, then put it back together.

I had never used paint stripper before. Being highly toxic, it is only meant to be applied outdoors. We were well into fall, though, and according to the label, it was too cold. So I opened the basement door and windows and worked downstairs. The fumes were too strong. After spreading the stripper on part of the shelves, I would leave the room. When the allotted 20 minutes had passed, I would return to scrape off the gook.

Finally the shelves were nearly done. Keiko pointed out the details that would make the difference between a rough, amateur job and a more polished, professional one. She pitched in rounding edges while I went after a few stubborn spots of paint, then applied the stain and varnish.

If you figured the man-hours involved, the shelves were not cheap. But their shiny, natural look added a new dimension of beauty and usefulness to our home. It's remarkable how much better the shelves looked after they'd been restored.

My next projects will be the chests of drawers, the kitchen cabinet doors and our coffee table. We need shelves in the prayer room, too.

There's a lot of work to do, but soon our home will be more suitable for guests. And hopefully the relationship between my wife and me will also be growing, deepening and improving.

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