Today we took our dining table out of the house, and brought in one that we bought. It was a little sad for me. Our old table, is really only five years old to us, but it was probably about fifty or sixty years old. Some one had made it by hand, and it showed. Not that it was a work of expert skill, but rather some one who left their human mark. My mom and I bought it at a little local auction when we moved to Utah from Boston, and were staying with her at her house in Payson.
It was my first, and only, auction, and I kept bidding against myself for it. The auctioneer finally stopped and asked if this was our first time to auction, to which I nodded. He then said that he'd "take real good care of" me. I think that I loved that table because of the story that I created around it.
My grandfather was always building, and fixing things when I was growing up. I don't ever remember seeing a repairman as a child, it was just grandpa going in to his garage, and pulling some of his tools off of his giant wall of tools and fixing whatever was broken. Our trash compactor, or dishwasher, a toilet, or the roof. I don't think that he necessarily knew how to fix all those things, but he'd just take the broken thing apart and eventually he'd figure out what was wrong and then put it back together.
His hands were like meat cleavers..they were enormous. Which was shocking, considering that he wasn't a large man. In fact, because of his hands, I always pictured him as being much larger than his five foot eight height and one hundred and sixty pound frame really was. I don't know if my grandpa ever made a table. But he could have. And if he had, this was the one he would have made. It was rough. There were parts that were very carefully done, and parts that seemed a little more rushed.
But it's clever in it's construction. And when Gavin turned it over so that we could take it out of the house, my heart kind of stopped for a minute. Because there were all of these marks from the maker. So that he could match up all the A parts correctly, and the B and C, and so on. There were lines where he was mapping out what needed to go where. There were holes that were mistakes from screws that had to be redone. There were extra pieces of wood that were used as filler when pieces didn't quite meet up.
On the exterior, you'd never see any of this. The table had so much character, and always looked like a nice antique. It's shape was unique in that it was square, but the lines were softer than a standard square. The sides of the table top were large and curved, with a beautiful wood veneer and beaded trim. The pedestal that the table stood on was thick, but graceful, with a large center column and four curved legs extending from it. The large column hid an interior leg that would be exposed when the table was opened to accommodate a table leaf. Unfortunately the auctioneer did not have this piece, so we never saw the table in it's full glory. The top looked like it had been in the process of being refinished, but had only succeeded in getting half way done. The pieces of wood in the table's top were all unique, worn, and lovely. They resembled a patchwork quilt.
But it was the bottom that told the story of the labor of love that went in to making this table. And that is what I always felt when I ate at this old table. It's like I could feel those old hands that had created it. I could smell the home cooked meals that had been served on it. I could see his children grow, and the creator age as that table served his family. Now it was serving mine in the same way. It was the table that my daughter lost her tooth at. It was the table that both Shelby and Garrett started eating "real food" at. It was the table that served as the buffet for gatherings with friends. The table that we decorated Easter eggs on. The table that we ate our holiday meals at. And now it was going to be taken apart, disassembled, to possibly be used by someone else?! Would they even appreciate what history had taken place on and around this table?
It creaked, and was uneven. It's surface was hard to clean, as it had so many old cracks where the wood pieces had moved apart. It was faded from years of use. But eating on it felt like I was back in Orem with my grandpa, eating with him.
So today, we took it out. And made room for a new table that looks old. Shelby asked why it had a bunch of holes and scratches on it. Wouldn't I want to buy one that was nice and new? I told her that the guy that made it beat it with some nails and things to make it look old. "Well that's OK. It still looks nice even though that guy did that. Except if he was going to put dots on it, he should have at least done a dot to dot!" To be honest, it does feel silly. Exchanging a real old charming table for a new one that is trying to look that way.
However, tonight at dinner I could wipe up Garrett's spilled milk, and it didn't sink in to a million crevices. Dalton did his homework at the table without his pencil getting stuck in a crack every ten seconds. And Gavin and Dalton thought it was really cool that they could pass things to each other at dinner by sliding them because the table was so flat...
I asked Gavin if he was sure about the change. He said, "Not to be rude, but I never really liked that table." I told him that that was just as awful to me as him telling me that "he never really liked our son Garrett." It felt like a betrayal. He just shrugged and said, "Sorry, it's the truth."
I miss that grandpa of mine. I would love to have some good conversations with him. Pick his brain. Have him school me on all that he knows.
I remember once, after his health began to fail, that he said to me "You know that it's a shame that when I die I am going to take my knowledge with me. Because I have so much of it." That truly is a shame.
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