One year ago my then-fiancé and I took a big leap: We purchased our first home. When the big moving truck pulled onto our tiny street in Cape Coral, FL the movers threw open the hatch and our furniture started to descend.
This moving truck had traveled a long way, from Royersford, PA — near Philadelphia. The treasures inside were coming from my childhood home, a home that would soon be empty and on the market.
The furniture donations were a win-win. We desperately needed furniture for our new home and my parents needed to get rid of theirs. Plus, I got to keep some wonderful pieces of home décor that reminded me of my childhood. One piece, in particular, was the first on my list of stuff I both wanted and needed from the house. It was my childhood dresser — lovingly named The Sticker Dresser — and maybe the last piece of furniture you’d expect a new homeowner to hold out for.
The Sticker Dresser has been around for as far back as I can remember. When it was getting moved into my new garage last year, I finally asked my mother about its origin story.
I was delighted when she told me about inheriting the dresser from a family member at the age of 23, when she lived in New Jersey. She told me she painted the drawers rainbow colors, which is hardly surprising — as a hippie who grew up in the ’60s, my mom’s favorite pattern to wear is still tie-dye. She loves bright colors and her absolute favorite color is yellow (a trait I inherited, down to the shade). I had always been under the impression that she painted the dresser for my sister and me when we were babies, but the rainbow colors had come long before that.
The dresser traveled with my mother from New Jersey down to South Florida, where she eventually met and settled down with my dad. When we moved back up north to New Jersey when I was four, the dresser came too. That’s where my memories of The Sticker Dresser began.
As a New Jersey kindergartener, I was always getting stickers at school. Each time, I would rush home to put the stickers on the dresser. I don’t remember when I decided this might be a good idea, but every time I received stickers I was excited to add them to my collection. I fondly remember staring at the stickers for hours, knowing exactly where each one came from, what day I got it, and what it meant.
My mother says the stickers tell the story of my childhood, and they do. There are Highlights Magazine dinosaur stickers; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stickers; the stickers I received at doctor’s visits (“Be nice to me, I’ve gotta cold”); stickers shaped like irritating germs that came from a children’s allergy booklet I received when they found out I was allergic to Penicillin; a sticker I won at Chuck E. Cheese’s, which I frequented with my grandparents; small oval stickers with outdated artwork that included clowns and monkeys and came for free with the eye patches that I was prescribed to wear as a child; stickers I received on my birthday, and any free stickers that came in junk mail that my mom was excited to give to me every time they arrived. When I look at the stickers I think of the seasons of my life. I remember exactly how I felt, where I was and what I was going through. Sitting in front of the sticker dresser was a form of meditation for my younger self. That’s why sitting in front of it today still brings me so much peace.
The Sticker Dresser is now an antique. When I moved to Mexico in 2009 it remained in my house in Pennsylvania and every time I came home, there it was to comfort me, to remind me that my memories and childhood would always be right there where I left them, no matter how far around the world I traveled. When my husband and I decided to move to the US from Mexico in 2014 we picked Cape Coral, FL, mainly because my parents had a house there where we could stay until we figured out our next move. We ended up deciding to stay.
When The Sticker Dresser came up, my family laughed and teased me:
“Why don’t you just throw it out?”
“It’s not going to match any interior decorating!”
“You can’t possibly put that in your future child’s bedroom.”
When my husband saw it he turned up his nose, “What IS that?”
I didn’t care what they said. I knew what The Sticker Dresser meant to me and learning about its journey before I was even born solidified my decision: I was never throwing this thing out.
It’s amazing when I think back to my five-year-old self, who is still so much a part of the person I am today. I still love rainbows, stickers, and creatively expressing myself through art. I’m grateful my mother allowed me to cover the dresser with stickers without a second thought. I’m glad she has always encouraged me to express myself through color, words, and sentimental objects like a dresser. I’m happy she shared with me the history of The Sticker Dresser last year.
One day I hope to tell my future children the story of The Sticker Dresser. I hope I can help them cultivate a form of expression that allows them to collect memories, too. If it includes rainbows, tie-dye, and stickers, even better.
Thank you, Mom, for allowing me to find happiness and keep a scrapbook of my childhood in the most peculiar of places.
Do you have an unexpected childhood heirloom? Tell us @britandco!
(Images via the author)