My Grandmother's Table


This word means so many different things to so many different people. In the process of downsizing my home, I decided to divest myself of as much furniture as possible. I have had some pieces for over 30 years and their origins are fuzzy, but there are a few that I hold especially dear. These are the ones passed to me from my great grandmother and my great aunt.

After my grandmother passed, it became the job of the grandchildren to clean out her house. As movers, we were pretty good but as assayers of antiques, well we just knew “old” was smelly, creaky, and ready for the growing heap in the yard. Each time something was placed on the “dump” truck, I would race out to salvage it. Perhaps it was my way of preserving the history I felt was leaking out with each passing minute. Maybe I felt I would lose grandma’s essence altogether. Getting rid of items seemed almost sacrilegious.

In the midst of the chaos, was a big clunky old oak table. Sitting on a pedestal, the round weathered top had deep burn marks in it, as if someone had set down a hot pot, scorching the wood. As my great grandmother was a pastel artist, strewn haphazardly were boxes of chalks, their dusty remnants giving the impression that the table was not wood at all, but a canvas of the most abstract art. Deep scratches, rusty connections, three wheels when there should be four, the table should have landed on the dump pile.

As if in a trance, I walked over to that pile and put the table next to my car. I just couldn’t let that happen. For the next few weeks, I hand sanded the top. I got to know “Zip Strip” and “Formby’s” very well. Staining and polyurethaning became so familiar past time. I was out on the front lawn of my townhouse for days. I was on a mission: to bring the table back to life. It worked.

The table was a beautiful tribute to all of us who had had the pleasure to experience family dinners and chicken and dumplings on Fiesta ware. Soft, fuzzy warm evenings when it all could be soaked in. Love was such a tangible thing around a family table.

If you have reached adulthood, you realize that sometimes, those wonderful moments seem as distant memories. Today’s world is harsh sometimes. Families move or dissolve. I had a serious talk with myself. It really was time to let go of the table. I talked with my immediate kin. Who wants grandma’s old table? I looked at my circle of kin, and found my mother’s cousin. She was so appreciative to be asked and so willing to take the table, that I was moved beyond words.

We need legacies to pass on. To me, a table is a physical representation of something much more spiritual. It was time to allow another of my great grandmother’s grandchildren to have a chance to feel and remember the love that was represented around that table. I am pleased that letting go didn’t mean taking to the dump pile. It meant remembering the importance of family and working to keep it alive.

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