Here is a cute little tin planter with some impatiens in it, sitting on the little French bistro set we have on the front porch.
IF IT EVER GETS WARM, the impatiens will grow bigger and spill over the edges of that container, dark pink, pale pink, green, and it will truly be a delicious little amuse yeux.
My husband and I are of sharply divided opinion on that bistro set, which is painted the palest celadon green, enhanced with spots of orangey rust. While he doesn't mind the bistro set, the rust on the table makes him occasionally black out; he can't understand why anyone who isn't a slacker, a wastrel or a layabout would purposely allow outdoor furniture to acquire a patina of rust.
I, on the other hand, find it charmingly shabby, far more interesting than a perfect chairs-and-table that one might find under an awning outside a Carmel lunchery. I like it rusted. It was that way when I bought it, actually. I saw it on a sidewalk outside an antique shop in Pendleton as I was driving through the town one day on my way to somewhere else. The bistro set was temptingly displayed with a cheerfully decrepit old mirror propped up against one chair. I was at a stoplight, and in one speedy maneuver, I whipped the van into a parking space alongside the road and said, "Meelyn! Will you hop out and see how much that bistro set is?"
She obligingly climbed out, took a look at the price tag that was dangling from one of the chairs and returned to the van's open door to say, "The whole set is $40."
Cha-ching! went my brain: It was only a week until my birthday, and so far as I knew, my husband hadn't bought me a gift yet. I yanked my phone out of my purse, hit my husband's number on speed dial and said to the girls while my phone was ringing, "Mee, run in there and ask them if they'll take a check - I don't have any cash on me. Aisling, get out and sit in one of the chairs, I don't want anyone else trying to buy it while I'm talking to Daddy."
"Hello?" my husband said.
"Hi," I said, dispensing with all further salutation. "Have you bought me a birthday gift yet?"
"Uhhh.....uhhhh....." he said, obviously casting about for the right answer, maybe even trying to remember how many days he had to go before zero hour came along to tweak his nose.
"Okay, I can see you haven't. Anyway, you just bought me a bistro set, so thank you! I love it! You're the best husband ever! Bye bye!" I hung up, giggling, as he spluttered, "Wha-...?? But....HEY!!!!"
My phone rang as I was getting out of the van.
"How much?" he said tersely, dispensing with some pleasantries of his own.
"Forty dollars," I replied lightly.
He sighed in relief. "Oh, good. That's fine. And you're welcome! Happy birthday, honey."
The girls and I had it all lovingly set up on the front porch by the time he got home from work and we were sitting out there drinking peach iced tea and nodding amiably to the people walking by on their way to the little theater that is two doors down from us.
"This is the bistro set you paid forty dollars for?" he asked dubiously, sounding a little strangled.
"Yes," I said fondly, stroking one of the chairs. "Isn't it just so Frenchy and adorable?"
"Adorable? It's rusty!"
"I know. It looks like it came straight from la Belle Époque, doesn't it?"
He snorted. "More like la belle chicken pox."
"You just don't know what's cute, that's all," I replied with dignity.
My husband tested the table to make sure it was sturdy. "Evidently not. Will I be able to put a beer on this thing, or will it all just fall right to the ground, seeing as how its eaten up with rust?"
"I'd prefer you put a glass of wine or maybe an espresso or even a cup of tea on it, but yes, it's perfectly strong. I checked it out and that's just a little surface rust. Everything else is sound. It even all folds up for storage in the winter."
He heaved a heavy sigh. "Okay. If you're happy, I'm happy. But could I just...."
I stood straight up and looked him in the eye. "NO SANDPAPER."
"Are you sure...?" He picked slightly at a fleck of rust and looked pleased when it came right off.
"None. And no Rustoleum in some awful color, either."
He looked crestfallen, having the possibility of a Fun Project taken away from him. "Well, if you're sure...." he said in resignation.
"I'm perfectly sure," I assured him. "And I'm very happy. I love my birthday present. Nobody else has one like it."
"I don't know," he said thoughtfully. "I bet we could find one out at the city du-..."
"DO NOT GO THERE, either literally or figuratively."
That was four years ago and he asks me every spring if he can sand it down and spray paint it, but I keep on saying no. He tells me that I can't expect it to last forever if it continues to get even rustier, but sometimes you don't want something to last forever, right? My marriage, yes, I'd do it all over again. My love for my children and family, no question. My friendships, of course. But maybe the little bistro set is just supposed to be beautiful for a while, a little time, and then when it finally just crumbles away, I'll have lovely memories of how I found it and how it looked, a little bit battered, on my front porch with a tin pail of impatiens on it.
Maybe then I'll find something I like even better.
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