The Table

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The Gift of The Table

 

I felt as if I were preparing to work on something sacred.  I could barely breathe as I cut strips from an old towel and soaked it with the linseed oil that would feed the hungry, dry and moldy oak wood of our old family dining room suite.  It had been more than 15 years since I had last lived in a place large enough to accommodate the entire suite.  As I lovingly began the 3 hour project of feeding and polishing The Table and its accompanying pieces, many memories reminded me of the times it had served to nourish me in so many ways.

The Table was purchased during my early childhood, a strange purchase for mu mother ... it was blonde and modern (for the day).  My first memory was that of my sister, Sharon, running as fast as her little feet would take her through the dining room, her little head barely clearing the corner of The Table.  Mother usually served supper at the Formica and chrome kitchen table; but once a week, she would bring  out her fine china, silver, crystal and etiquette books (complete with pictures on the setting of a formal table), requiring her three girls to learn what all young ladies should know about formal dining ... how to set a "proper" table!  These instructions included exactly which side of the plate to place a napkin, fork, knife, spoon and glass, as well as the order and placement of salad and dessert forks! During dinner, the napkin was properly placed in each lap, and certainly no elbow ever touched The Table.  It was also at The Table that Daddy tried to help me understand Algebra .... that "Thank You" notes were written (and not an option) ... and where I was taught in the sixth grade the hard lesson of looking for the value and good in every circumstance during the time when our family made a difficult move,  for me, from Florida to Georgia. 

Years later, The Table become mine when my little family moved to Colorado.  Now, it served as a place where my little family gathered.  Sadly, I did not choose to use it as much for a learning ground for my little ones as my mother had for her family - I taught table manners, but certainly not concerning "proper" table.  I suppose I thought I knew far better than my parents, and that formal manners and other social graces were of no particular importance.  It was there that I decided to refinish the whole dining set with absolutely no experience.  It was a long and tedious, but happy road, for I was pleased that in our next move, we would have a beautiful dining suite!

Always, The Table provided a place for wonderful holiday meals, birthday parties, a place to cut material for the children's clothes, to write musical arrangements and Christmas letters.  As always, The Table was there in happy times and sad.. and The Table came back with the children and me to Georgia when my marriage failed.  It was on The Table I taught the children to play Bridge upon the demise of our 12 inch black and white TV set.  It was also there as I tried, for the first time, to do my taxes, and it moved again with me as I began a new marriage.  Once again, it saw me through happy years and sad the saddest the night my husband suggested we sit at The Table ... and he told me that my dearest friend was dying of cancer.  As I sat in complete shock, I realized that even though she lived but a few hours away, I had allowed my life to become so cluttered, that I had seldom made time to visit her, and now it would be only a matter of time before I would have no more opportunities, no more girl talks with her, no more performing wonderful music together ... lost opportunities ... lost happiness. 

When the decision was made to end my second marriage, The Table went with me to Atlanta where the little condo I bought was not built for large family dining room suite.  Thanks to my youngest sister, she stored it in her basement for the years I lived in the condo.  Then in 1995, I decided to pack up my life and My Table and move close to my children and grandchildren.  Once again, there was no room for The Table, and once again The Table went into storage.  Visions of my children and grandchildren at The Table for special family gatherings, long talks and generational bonding dissolved as I painfully understood after a year that hopes and dreams don't always come true ... sometimes you have to make the hard decision to survive ...

So The Table and I returned to Georgia.  I had not been able to sell my condo and it was another year before I would be able to move back, so I found an apartment in which I could use The Table again!  to learn around it again; and now, as I continued to preen and nourish the wood, I understood ...  each generation is its own.   None of us ever used The Table the same way ...  generations change faster than ever before.

Yet, with each generation, The Table has remained constant, serving unconditionally ... no questions asked ... no judgments made ... no expectations assumed just The Table ... just there!!!

From "Gifts" ~ Christmas, 1995

September 29, 2017

*** I have come to understand that when I am gone... The Table will no longer stay in our family.  It has become obsolete ... but not for me.  My children are coming to celebrate my 80the Birthday next month ... and once again, we will sit at The Table" that fed us in many ways ... and  for many years!   I do cherish that!

~ Beverly Smith Herrington

 

 

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