A New Purpose


I, while investigating the nooks and crannies of our home shortly after purchase in 2013, found that a prior owner, in the 1940’s, had put down newspapers under now-ancient linoleum in the storage areas under the eaves on one side of the house. I have since pulled up all the newsprint from under the flooring of one storage area, and found a treasure trove of headlines, photographs, and advertisements from the greater Boston area – all from more than sixty years ago.

I read through much of what I found, amused at the antiquated fashion and pricing.  A platform rocker chair for $49.95. A washing machine for $189.50. An oil burning cabinet heater for $35.00. The merchants selling these wares in 1948 would likely be more than shocked at the prices charged for similar items today.

The publishers certainly did not intend their efforts to wind up as they did under the storage area flooring in someone’s home. The articles and ads from these newspapers were meant to inform and entertain. I suspect that the person who bought these papers did indeed read them when they were originally circulated; and then did something other than simply discard them.

They ‘repurposed’ the papers as insulation.

Repurposing older items into newer ones has become a popular trend in recent times. Old wooden boats and wooden drawers, with a little imagination, a couple of boards, and a few screws are transformed into bookcases. Old dining room buffets are sanded down, refinished, and become the cabinet bases for bathroom sinks. Non working picture tube t.v.’s become aquariums. If you have just a little inspiration, just about anything can find new life and new functionality.

The same can be said of people. With a little inspiration or motivation and a desire to find a new direction to follow,  each day we awaken is a chance to repurpose ourselves – even to reinvent ourselves – no matter how old we are. For some it’s a new job. For others it’s taking stock of our lives and beginning to cull the things that just simply no longer work for us or no longer exemplify our lives and our true selves.

The newspapers that I found under the linoleum in our home laid hidden from sight for more than sixty years. They served one purpose for all that time. As I pulled up the dry, brittle flooring that covered them for more than six decades, that purpose came to an end, and a new one began.

One of the pieces of furniture that I kept when cleaning out my mother’s house after she relocated was a small square end-table with a single shelf underneath the top surface. It resided in a corner of my mother’s living room for many years. I cannot recall a time when that table was not in use in her home. For several months now it has served to hold my record player (yes, I still own one of those ancient media devices), but didn’t do well to hold much of the collection of albums I have. I replaced the end table with something that has more storage capability for albums, but didn’t want to simply relegate the end table to the basement.

I found that it fits nicely into the corner where our sofa and love seat merge in the living room. I placed it in this corner, and wistfully observed the scratches and faded varnish that affirm the many years this piece of furniture have seen come and pass as it held lamps and displayed figurines and propped up a record player. The legs are a bit loose and in need of securing. Some of the finish accents have long since broken off the piece. The history of this piece of furniture is longer than I’ve been alive, perhaps even by twice as long. It’s easy to imagine this piece of furniture being sixty, seventy years old.

One day its usefulness might not be apparent to others. One day all the lines embedded in it, and the faded coloring might lead someone to believe that it no longer has a function or value. One day this table might find its way to some corner where it sits alone and mute, simply passed by and overlooked because it’s not new and everyone has seen it time and time again and nothing about it has changed.

Sadly, the same can be said of some people. They are simply overlooked as having outlived their usefulness, and there’s seemingly nothing new about them to see or to learn. I suppose that’s just the way life is if you let it happen.

For now, my table has found new life, as have the old newspapers I pulled from under the flooring. Realizing that the surface of the end table was the same size and shape as a piece of beveled glass from a much newer and less-storied end table I purchased in more recent days, I laid out a sheet of yellowed, faded newsprint on top of the marred table surface and then covered it with the glass from the newer table.

And with that both my table and the newspapers found new purpose and new life. If you will forgive the limitations of my phone camera, a photo of the ‘new’ addition to my living room is below.


2016 has just begun. The whole year still lies before us. All it takes is one day or even a part of one of those days to ‘repurpose’ ourselves and find a new direction to take. Old wounds can be healed. Old silences can be broken. Old arguments can be resolved.

Everything old can be new again.

Every life can find a new purpose.