This piece stood in the dining room of my grandmother's house (the home of my childhood) from the earliest days I can remember. I don't know if it was hers to begin with or if it had first belonged to her mother, Dora, who was also part of our multi-generational household.
After my grandmother passed away, my sister kept this piece and cared for it lovingly in her own home. It came to me eleven years later, after our mother died, and I hope it will always have a place with someone in our family.
You can't tell by looking at it, but it's actually made in two parts: the hutch sits on top of the secretary. When the hutch is lifted off, there's a span of wood on the secretary that isn't covered by the veneer that was so carefully applied to the rest of the piece. That patch of rough-hewn lumber demonstrates the age of this built-by-hand piece, as do the dovetail joints of the drawers and the slight rippling of the glass. The hinged half-top of the secretary folds out into a worn leather desktop.
When my sister passed this family heirloom on to me, she asked, "Did you ever know there's a hidden compartment in this?" I had not known it. I, who as a child had gone surreptitiously through every inch of that house with the thoroughness of a government agent, had somehow missed this.
The top of the hutch lifts up to reveal a secret space large enough to hold a good portion of a family's valuables. (I can show you this because I have no valuables to store in that space.)
I looked down on the top of this piece every time I went down the stairs from my bedroom for more than fourteen years and never suspected it was keeping a secret. My grandmother kept doilies on most of the flat wooden surfaces in our home, and there was always a crochet-edged scarf covering the tiny hinges on top of this.
I wonder what other interesting things I might have missed in my covert spy missions.