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.