Romancing A Roll Top

by Mark on January 6, 2010

I first became enamored with a roll top desk while browsing through a Norman Rockwell print book as a teen.   In the artist’s sentimental style there was a couple applying for a marriage license, a golfer sneaking out of his office, and a doctor diagnosing a little girl’s doll.  An oak roll top desk is the centerpiece for each image.   While I possessed no desire to be a  justice-of the-peace, a duffer or doc, the desk became my passion.

After a three-year search at auctions and antique stores a damaged oak beauty, blackened by a blaze, was purchased at a fire sale price.  For months I bleached the burns, re-glued loose drawers, sanded cubby holes and stained the rippling roll cover – not that it ever closed.   Upon completion, she gleamed.  I posed next to her, gently stroking the curves, and imagined Rockwell setting up his easel.  Within a few days I abandoned my beauty for over thirty-five years.

One year I dragged her to college for a place to dump books.   She landed in the living room of our first home only because of low furniture funds.   My son smothered her with clothes for two decades.   Later she posed as a copier base for my wife’s musical organization.

We recently rediscovered each other.   My new teaching and consulting career requires a home office.   Sheepishly, I approached my old flame and began dusting off the cover and clearing out the cubbyholes.   While abandoned for decades, she only creaked a few times in protest.   Now, we seem inseparable as I spend hours leaning on the desktop while reading textbooks or creating lesson plans.   The seemingly endless supply of cubby holes sorts my tools.  A secret file cabinet slides open to separate the  notebooks for each course.

With some guilt I wonder how my teenage passion so suddenly cooled those decades ago.  Like many things in life, I no doubt dreamed about what I wanted, not what I needed.   Now, needs and wants merged.  This morning I was showing my nine month grandson, Jaymeson, my office.   He promptly dropped a slobbery toy on the desktop.   Be careful, my little man, this may be yours one day.  Jaymeson just grinned.    Well, my roll top already survived 120 years, a fire, and my neglect.  She may one day emerge from piles of books and clothes to capture his heart.

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Rose January 17, 2014 at 12:08 am

We have an oak roll top desk believed to have been in the Palmerton, PA post office. It has been in our attic for about 30 years and before that it was in our family room. Two of the drawers are not in the desk, but we have a bag of pieces which I believe are those to the drawers. I have no idea how that happened. The desk needs TLC, but we know there is someone out there who may want this piece. We have papers from 1904 and a postal office manual from that date which were in the desk when we first acquired it.

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