Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Table

A story to share, written during my weekly writing group........

The table is made of chestnut. Its sturdy legs are graceful and slightly curved in such a way as to make the table seem much lighter than it actually is. At more than one-hundred and fifty pounds and seven feet in length, it is a bear to move. More than once it has scraped against door-jams and the corners of walls while being maneuvered by frequently reluctant suitors, leaving marks in its finish which tell a tale of decades of use by family, friends, colleagues, movers, shakers, children, and ghosts.

Many have sat here at this table. Many a meal has been served on its surface. Can you see the water rings created by errant glasses sweaty with the cold of summer lemonade? Or how about the spot near the far corner where a pot of soup slipped off of its trivet? These are battle scars for such a magnificent piece of furniture which has supported so many quite unconditionally, no matter the task at hand.

For children, this table has often seemed like a prison. Sentenced to apparently useless homework assignments, the table held small bodies glued to their seats by parental admonitions to finish those math equations in order to see the eventual reward of milk and cookies which would inevitably follow. Homework done, the table would then serve as a launching pad for drawing extravaganzas and endless games of Monopoly, Scrabble, Rummy, and any number of pastimes which might while away the hours of a winter afternoon or a summer evening. When covered with a large enough table-cloth, the table becomes a fort under which the children huddle amidst a forest of chair legs and adult shoes, temporarily safe from the rigors and demands of the outside world.

Speaking of launching pads, what businesses have been launched from this solid wooden base of support! What dreams have been sketched out on legal pads spread across this chestnut expanse! And now, in the 21st century, many a laptop computer has settled here, the tapping of the keys becoming part and parcel of the multiple dances that have flitted across this ersatz stage.

And what of the man who made this table some ninety years ago? He is long in his grave yet his memory lingers in the loving attention he gave to each stroke of his plane. He smoothed the grains of the chestnut planks with such care, knowing that this piece would long outlive his numbered days. He fully understood the utilitarian nature of his creation, yet he also intuitively knew that a table is far more than a place to rest one’s plate, glass, or notebook. It is a mirror, a support, a call to arms, a circle of hope. It gathers, it expands, it contracts, it refrains from judgment. It is solidity itself.
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