When we married, my husband and I had very little furniture. We were renting a small one bedroom apartment so we didn’t need much: sofa, bed, chest of drawers, T.V., most all of which were donated to us by various family members. It was a hodge-podge, to be sure. One necessity we lacked was a table and chairs. With some money gifted to us at the wedding, we purchased four chairs, a table top, and four table legs, all unfinished, and set to work sanding and staining and painting and attaching legs to the table top. We were so proud of our industry! The chairs I still have, though I’ve since repainted them once or twice.
When we bought our first home my mom lent us my great grandmother’s table. A little nervous about little preschool hands and playdoh and crayons and toys and other similiarly potential hazards unfriendly to antique family heirlooms, we were glad to temporarily help my mom out by storing her table for her while simultaneously enjoying a beautiful piece of furniture in our kitchen.
We moved to Alabama and brought her table with us. It was too large to fit in our kitchen so we bought a small ceramic top table that easily fit the four of us (and no more). My mom’s gorgeous table was relegated to the dining room and thus reserved for special occasions like birthdays and Christmas.
My mom eventually reclaimed her table and we ended up inheriting one that came with our next home purchase that was left behind by the previous owners. It easily sat six, a definite plus since our family had grown by that time. However, our dining room remained empty. That is, until my mom once again came to the rescue, this time spotting a beautiful set in a used furniture store. We bought it, she refinished it (win-win for us), and it served us well first in our dining room and then in our breakfast area once we inherited my husband’s grandmother’s table, chairs, hutch and buffet.
I loved our old table but when my friend decided to sell hers, a newer, sturdier table with a seating capacity of 8, we sold ours and bought hers. I felt a little silly at the sudden rush of nostalgia that hit me when my husband carried out the old table. It’s just a table, with no sentimental value. That is, no sentimental value other than the countless meals and homework assignments and piles of books, jackets, and mail it had sustained over the years. Plus, it was old. The new table was, well, new, only a couple of years old compared to the decades of my previous table.
For my son’s sixteenth birthday bash we extended the new kitchen table to its full length, allowing for eight guests to sit comfortably, something we had never been able to do with the other table. I liked it. We kept it extended for several weeks, and having such an expanse of table was both convenient and useful. Last week, however, I took the leaf out, returning the table to its smaller size. I found I prefer the six of us sitting closer, me being able to sit at the foot of the table and see the faces of those most precious to me in one glance.
This table too will no doubt see its share of homework and piles of paper and mail and jackets and iPods and pencils and backpacks and the like. It seems to me there are fewer and fewer meals we share together, all six of us, thus each one of them a blessing and a grace.
I know. It’s only a table. I know I’m over sentimentalizing and I’m okay with that. Today, to me, in this current state of nostalgic melancholy, it is also a metaphor, a picture, a taste–of grace, of family, of memories, of hope, of love, of things precious to me.