I have to admit, I had become a great disappointment to the ladies of my furniture restoration class. Week after week I would come into the class empty handed. The other students would look at me with lifted plucked eyebrows, wondering why I would not bring old treasures from my grand casa(we have none…) or at the very least from the contenadores de basura. I tried to explain that I had seen a three-legged chair or a broken TV by the dumpsters, but nothing salvageable or worthy of restoration.
Finding this foreigner both helpless and useless, in pure pity one of the women gave me a chair to work on. It had more bugs than wood, but underneath layers of paint and glossy varnish I found the most amazingly Art Nouveau embossed leatherwork.
Weeks went by while I diligently worked on my chair. The Ladies of Ronda Dumpster Diving Society would gradually approach, inspecting my handiwork and sometimes offer me a better tool or suggest a different brush. Clearly, I was not one of them, but they had accepted that la extranjera was there to stay. My membership in the Dumpster Diving Society was no longer suspended, though I was certainly not a card-holding member. Not yet…
One day, it all changed. Our neighbour Maria del Mar came hurrying into our class, calling me to come with her immediately. I followed her across the plaza, expecting to find a great emergency in our peaceful dead-end street. Instead, I found her aging mother, her adult son, two other neighbours and my husband waiting by the garbage containers. Communally, they had been guarding a truckload of furniture that someone had thrown out, making sure that I would get the first pick. You see, Thursday is when the city picks up unwanted furniture, so the Dumpster Diving Society goes into high gear on Wednesday night after dark right until Thursday morning
Each carrying an armchair, my husband and I walked back to the school. The seats were not Louis XIV, nor Andalucían farm antiques, but they seemed comfortable enough and, most importantly, they were found in the dumpster. The students cheered us on like soldiers coming back from battle. The oldest and most venerable lady in the Society took it upon herself to sit down in one of the chairs. She nodded her sign of approval. Yes, they were comfortable. Where had we found them and are there more, another lady wanted to know. The class took off en masse, horn rimmed Dior glasses, paint-splattered lab coats, high heels and all. Moments later, they returned from the raid, one with a footstool, another with a mirror, and two carrying a bed frame.
We had found the mother load of all dumpster discoveries. And as far as la extranjera was concerned, I was finally accepted as a full-fledged member in The Ladies of Ronda Dumpster Diving Society.