It isn’t much to look at. We bought it from JC Penney’s in the spring of 1990. It was part of our first “real furniture.” You know…not a hand me down, but bought on store credit. We bought it not for its beauty, but for its durability, and it sure has come through. The other furniture we purchased with it is long gone. This piece, however, has watched the long progression of our lives unfold.
The table seats four without the leaf, and for the first few years, that’s all we needed. With babies and high chairs, we rarely extended it. Then we found that we could hang a child seat from the side. The children sat clamped to the table in their colorful seat until they could finally manage a chair. When Allie could barely reach the table, Keith made her a wooden booster that marked up the seat of the chair but allowed her to join us.
For a decade, this table was the center of our days. The table was the space for art and play. Crayons, paint, and original creations of every kind. We were serious about play dough in those days. Sometimes we covered the table with sheets and created forts for tea parties and cowboy hideouts. It was in a moment of imaginative play, that Brian stood on a chair and cracked a wooden piece. Later, he got his head stuck in the gap. In a house full toddlers and pre-schoolers, the only thing I required of the table was to be sturdy and washable… and it was both.
In the little years, we ate three meals a day and sometimes snacks at the table in our little house on Cross St. The children fussed and fought, explored and grew. As the kids grew up, Keith and I did too. The table was where my writing began. It was the center of my world as I prepared for teaching times, planned events, or organized supplies. It’s where I caught up with friends over coffee. I learned to love the Q in Scrabble at this table and to open my life to others. It’s where the bills got paid or didn’t. The ups and downs of marriage and life happened here.
Later, we invited people in and shared our life around the table. Potluck dinners, holidays, and ordinary Tuesdays unfolded here. Friends, and kids from the neighborhood, often joined us at the table. We added a bench (the old church pew) and shoved over to make room. A hundred Thursday nights, the kids ate together at the table and then played Uno and Skipbo. It caught the laundry from football practice, cheering, softball, and baseball. It’s where the girls whispered about boys, and boys talked about sports.
I taught the neighborhood kids how to do candy math (including Kathy) at this table. With M&M’s and Twizzlers, we practiced fractions and pre-algebra. They loved it because they could write on the table and the laminate allowed me to wipe it right off. When it was time for college applications and often job applications, we were back at the table. We celebrated dozens of holidays, making memories and traditions in our own way. As they moved out, the table grew quiet and I avoided it because I hated the emptiness. Until they returned.
This week, we crossed a threshold at the table. When we gathered for family dinner we found that three kids brought three more. It was a first for us… to be eight. We scooted chairs up to the table, but had to acknowledge, we have outgrown our table. We’ve talked about this for years, but it was a moment of recognition as we laughed and ate and enjoyed being together. Life is changing again…We need a bigger table!