Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Wooden Table

The Wooden Table

Patricia Cummings

Perhaps I am unusual. I have no way of judging that. I become very attached to objects. Let me explain. This morning I am thinking about a kitchen table. It was made by a NH artisan, a man who since either retired to Florida or went to meet his Maker before that move could happen. For a short time, he advertised himself as a woodworker via a sign on his lawn, a space full of his wooden objects he had made. In driving past his home, again and again, my father took notice and my parents stopped in. Before they had left, they had placed an order with him for a kitchen table crafted by him. On the backside of the table a message is written that says the table was made for the family of (my father). Unfortunately, the man did not sign his name and it is currently "lost to history."

The table was a "step up." I remember vividly one kitchen set after another that were typical of the 1950s and 1960s. If you lived through that time period, you would recognize that type of kitchen decor immediately. I have no photos handy.

To get back to the discussion of the wooden table, its surface is wonderful but "soft":  easily scratched or dented. It is a soft pine, not a hardwood surface. For a time, the table was used by another family member. I asked for it, after seeing it sitting outside in the rain, ready to be disposed of in some manner.

The table is more that a table to me. I can remember the large turkey dinners displayed on it at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, all prepared by my mother who worked tirelessly to honor family food rituals and made all kinds of specialties for those holidays. I remember the "everyday" fare of homemade baked beans, Rhubarb pie and many other berry and fruit pies. Seeing the table reminds me of the white cake with white frosting and coconut, a perennial favorite of my mother, served with a scoop of ice cream and a huge dollop of love.

Although the table is scratched now, that is okay. To me, it represents the aging process and even all of my own bruises, wrinkles, and scars that are typical of anyone who is in their 6th decade of life.

I smile when I see that table. It is special, more valued than can be imagined. It represents the people who once sat around it. I can vividly remember my Dad eating his first Cornish Hen there and in my mind's eye, I can still see the faces of many family and friends who have enjoyed that table. It was such a blessing to be able to have the table in my possession. "One man's trash is another man's treasure." I do not expect anyone else to have the same sentimental values that I place on objects.

Call me crazy, if you must. By saving things of the past, restoring them as needed, patching together old garments and items of cloth so they can last a little longer, my husband and I have crafted a life of abundance. The old table represents that New England quality of "making do" - "Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, or Do without."

Somehow, along life's way, the most important thing we have learned is to appreciate the work of others. The old table served many years and I hope it will survive for many more to come, No one living is more attached to it than I am because it holds precious memories of loved ones who are no longer here who once gathered at that table for family fun and camaraderie. For a fleeting moment, when I  look at the table, I can recall their words, or see their faces, or hear their laughter, for even a brief time and then it seems not so long ago that those precious times together were shared.

Life is always moving along, one reason it is often represented as a "river" by those who enjoy poetic analogies. Whether we embrace change or simply endure it, change is inevitable. To some degree, I embrace change. In other ways, I reject it. To me, the old table represents not just the man who created it, whose name if unknown to me,. it represents a time when handmade goods were honored, a reason I enjoyed living in the 1960s and 1970s, a time that featured a "back to nature" theme. That is a topic for another day. Life is good.

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