When I had moved out in my twenties, I needed a kitchen table. My Mom and Dad brought one to me at my apartment. I still remember them carrying it across that long parking lot on a hot summer's day. I'm not quite sure where they got it. Used, maybe, or perhaps from a relative. It was painted an ugly shade of thick brown paint.(Edited to add: Rob remembers that there was a thick coat of dark green OVER the dark brown.)
I spent weeks stripping and sanding that table down to the bare wood, working in the outdoor patio behind Rob's apartment (this was before we were married). It took so long because I had to dig into the crevices in the legs with the edge of a nail file to chase every last bit of brown paint out in the detailing of the lathe-turned grooves. You can still see tiny bits of the paint, like shadows, proof that I was not an expert used furniture refinisher by any means. I don't remember what the wood was, but I stained it a red maple color and covered it with a protective gloss. I remember how vexed I was by a stray hair that floated in on a breeze and caught in the gloss and affixed itself there, like an insect caught in amber.
We moved it to our first apartment together, and it became our first table. When we moved again, to our house where the girls were born, the table was put in the dining room. Rather too humble, aesthetically, for the space, but it fit perfectly, and when we covered it with a cloth, and put the best dishes on it, it suited us well. Two leaves could be pulled out from the ends to add length whenever we had guests.
Over the years, of course, there were scars. Delia the toddler banged her spoon incessantly, and so there is a patina of half-moon shaped scars on her side of the table. (We always sat at the same places.) Once, someone put a candlestick on the table, and some liquid spilled and soaked the felt cushion underneath, leaving a stain which marked the varnish. There is the smear of nail polish where Delia was experimenting, and I couldn't rub it off. I didn't want to try anything stronger that would take off the finish. I'll admit I wasn't always scrupulously quick about wiping away everyday stains.
It's used, battered, and hardly an heirloom. But we loved that table. We grew our family around it, and told our jokes, and traded our bon mots
and cracked each other up. We had raging arguments, often about whether onions must be eaten or not. Fiona banged the back of her head against the back of her chair 1,346,234 times and never never remembered not to do it the next night. We ate our Christmas breakfasts and celebrated twelfth night
there. We brought various hopeful Boys to join us. Fiona perfected her pterodactyl mating call there. We held hands around it and blessed our meals, and cried and screamed and raged and loved each other there.
We didn't have a hearth, so we used a table instead.
My mom is moving from the apartment she shared with Dad to a smaller senior complex. She had to downsize, and so she offered us her dining room table, the one I
grew up with. It, too, has a rich family history, and many happy memories. It is bigger than ours: we will have to take leaves out and put the ends down, and we can't sit in the same configuration, because you can't put your feet under the drop leaf ends.
But. It, too, is the family table with a lot of lovely memories, and I hated to see it go to some strangers. Yes, we will take it, I said, and when the girls leave home, Rob and I can take all the leaves out, drop the sides, and it will work as a long narrow table for just the two of us. And then one of the girls can take our table when they leave to set up their own household.
Mom is going to be using the old oak table she had in her kitchen, the one she received from her mother-in-law (yet another generation's worth of memories).
So I have taken the legs off our table...
We will have to do our Valentine boxes breakfast Japanese-style, on the floor, tomorrow morning,
and then hustle it into the basement, so the dining room is clear when the truck brings Mom's old dining room table to our house.
And our old table will wait, patiently, in the basement, until either Fiona or Delia move out, painstakingly reassemble it, and gather friends and a new family around it to make a new generation of memories.