09 November 2011

this old table

early november brings the ritual of readying the kitchen table for the holidays and for the winter season beyond. it gets a good cleaning, then a few deep coats of lemon oil. some dark scratch cover is a futile attempt at making the surface uniform in color. and when the job is finished, this table is still in awful shape.

forty years ago, the oval table was bought brand new in an intentionally distressed condition. new pine, but beaten and gouged to simulate age and wear. the thinking then was that we wanted folks to be comfortable sitting at it, feel at home, and not worry about bangs or dents or coffee rings.

now all these years later, its finish is old and worn, the wood beneath barely protected. i know it's dried out. i know it needs refinishing. but the mars and dings, the scrapes and gouges all represent the activity that's gone on at this table. the holiday dinners and saturday suppers, the candyland and gin rummy games, the homework and the coursework, the cookie decorating and the quilt-making and the letter writing. almost every person i have ever loved has sat at this table. my mother's signature has been here, and the backwards letters of the girl's early attempts at writing. the square patch where the little girl stuck on tape and lifted the dark color. the small stain from spilled wine. the table's finish, or lack of it, speaks to its history and i cannot bear to sand it away. so every fall i clean and oil and cover the year's scratches with stain stick. i strategically place the runner over the matchbox truck scrape. and i ready the table for another season of celebration.

10 comments:

Alicia said...

Delightfully melancholic and yet optimistic view of life through the inanimated. Really lovely.

~she~ said...

Such a neat way to put it! With my kids still little, I see the scratches as just scratches!

susan t. landry said...

wonderful, chris. this is such a lovely post, says volumes about you and your world.

Nora said...

It's not so good to get over sentimental about scratches and stains. It's the memories in your head that count. I'd have the table refinished and enjoy it for another 20 years instead of having it go to ruin. I'm sure your daughter would like to inherit it one day.

Dani said...

Adorably nostalgic post! <3

Aleta said...

A true mother's heart felt sentiment. Sometimes it's the scratches that invoke the memories and the love. I feel the same way about my old piano.

the girl said...

I would love to inherit it- scratches and all!

Graciegreen said...

I have a table like yours. My grandkids now sit in my girls places. You put my feelings for my family table into words...thanks.

Kathleen Botsford said...

I have been spending the morning with a cup of coffee and your blog. Each and every post is special. I cannot comment on them all for I have a Christmas tree to begin taking down but this one is oh so very poignant to me. I totally understand and agree with and applaud your sentiments. I am such a lucky mom to have known these very values even as my children we young and creating the "ordinary" scratches. Aren't we the blessed ones?

chris said...

Kathleen Botsford: i'm glad you're enjoying my poor attempts at writing. thank you for reading. ps: this post is one of my favorites for 2011. i sit at the table even now as i write this...