More Than Just a Table

It already had a lot of history before it came into our family. I found the old table in the stairwell near the garbage chute in our first apartment in Boston. People put large things there for the janitor to dispose of, and anything you found was fair game. I thought carefully before adopting the table. I knew it would be a life-long relationship.

Forty-some years later, this appears to be the case. It still sits in my kitchen. It’s evolved considerably in the interim. For the first couple of years, a blotchy, peeling coat of colored varnish deepened the shade of the cherry wood. In the late sixties I painted it a lovely turquoise, accented with then fashionable antiquing, perfect for the spindled, early American legs. In the seventies, it acquired a coat of lime green paint to coordinate with the next house.

Eventually it was too small for our growing family and moved to the basement, where it served a variety of passive purposes. When we moved to Pittsburgh, it obligingly returned to active duty in the kitchen, while its successor occupied the dining room.

The lime green paint was jolting in the new location, so I stripped the table bare. It remained naked for more than a dozen years before I gave it a chic, sheer paprika-red glaze and a couple of coats of varathane, leaving the legs natural.

The story of the table’s surface doesn’t begin to tell what it’s meant to our family. It has been with us through infants, toddlers, teens and grandchildren. It has participated in celebrations, turmoil, tedium, and joy. It has hosted friends, held homework, collected piles of dirty dishes, served as a bread kneading surface ... .

As I consider this table, I think of all the stories it has witnessed, the stories it could tell.
It's more than just a table — we have no secrets from it. An idea strikes me: I could write a collection of stories about our family with this table as the organizing thread. Will I write this series? I can’t tell you today, but it is a doable and exciting idea. The concept resembles memoirs people like Ruth Reichl write that use adventures with food as the organizing principle.

This idea is worth remembering. I just wrote it on a card and stuck it in my file box. I recently expanded my card filing system to include a section for theme ideas. Others include cars I have known and loved, special people in my life, vacation stories and many others.

Write now: about a treasured piece of furniture in your life. Be very specific in your description of the item, using all your senses. How did it smell? What was the texture as you ran your fingers over the surface? What sounds did you hear as you used it? Was this item comforting? Does it remind you of anything special? What memories are connected with it?

Write on,

Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal


Grannymar said...

This reminds me of a Podcast I did on this very subject.

A table is never just a table!

Coralie Cederna Johnson said...

HI Sharon! I came to visit after receiving your wonderful comment on my blog! I see why you are so talented in your writing! Seems we have much in common! You are an awesome writer of memoirs! I'll be checking back again...Thanks for the memories!

Jerry Waxler said...

This is an interesting coincidence. I just finished the Mistress' Daughter, and kept wondering how she was going to tie it all together. It turns out she uses a table. In my own stories, I usually return to entire places, like my dad's drugstore or my grandmother's house. You've prompted me to look around and find a good solid piece of furniture.


Grannymar said...

Sharon, thank you for visiting, listening to my Podcast and commenting.

My effort for today is the story of a car.
I hope my head cold does not interfere with or spoil 'My Brogue'!