The dining room table I grew up with was unlike any I’ve seen. It was made using old pieces of telephone wire spindles; one of the circular pieces was cut in half and formed the ends of the table, with other end of the spool being cut to form the middle of the table. In the very center of the table, where the hole of the spool was, a ceramic disk was added. Legs were also added, carved roughly to look slightly arty, and the whole thing was stained for protection and smoothness. It looked very rustic and DIY.
The chairs were part of the set, made from a similar kind of wood. They were also incredibly uncomfortable; they didn’t have any padding on them, so the only thing separating hard wood from your butt was the clothes you had on. The chairs and table stained and sealed, so there was never any splintering, but doesn’t make for an overly pleasant sitting experience. I had grown up with these chairs, though, so I didn’t even notice how uncomfortable they were until one of my college friends sat in them.
My parents bought it when they first got married from a hippie furniture co-op in San Diego called Many Hands. It was a popular thing in the early 70s to make stuff out of other stuff, to reclaim man-made objects and give them new life. It seems like something Jesus People would be into, to make functional things out of refuse and seemingly wasted material; out of death comes life.
I loved this table. When we were little, my sister and I would build forts using this table, plus blankets and couch cushions. It was the perfect height for sitting under, and it was the customary spot for sitting and counting to one hundred for hide-and-seek games. It had a giant, two-fist-sized divot in the underside, probably where there was a knot in the wood. I often wondered what had happened to it, if some great dog had taken a bite out of it. And I can remember just walking around it in circles when I was 4 years old, counting aloud by ones to see how high I could count. I think I got to over 600 before my mother made me stop and have lunch.
When I moved into my first apartment post-college, I inherited the table from my parents. When you looked at this table, you got the idea that it was from a past age, even if you couldn’t say what age. My roommate thought it was something medieval, and could picture huge bearded warriors sitting around it with mugs of ale and double-headed axes laid against the wall behind them. My sister’s husband Chris was helping me move in, among others, and he and a friend of mine carried the table up two flights of stairs. I never tried to lift it, but it apparently weighs a ton. Chris swore that if he helped me move the table out again, he was bringing his chainsaw.
Oh, the tales this table could tell. I’ve told some of them, but the table itself could tell many more if it had a mouth and a voice. Tables, I’m pretty sure, have perfect memories. Its stories would be not just of my own family, but of all its owners before us. Tables see the best and worst of human beings, serving as silent observers to the passing of years.
When I moved out of that apartment, I didn’t have a place to put it where I was moving into, nor did I have storage space for it. My parents didn’t want it back, so I had no choice but to leave it with my roommate and his brother, who was moving in with him. They called me about a month or two later asking permission to get rid of it. It was very nice of them to make that call; they understood that the table held a lot of sentimental value to me, and they didn’t want to treat it unfairly. I shed a little bittersweet tear, but I consented for them to put it out by the dumpster. They told me later that when they walked by the dumpster the very next day, it was gone. Someone else had recognized the greatness of that table, and had decided to make it their own.
It makes me smile and sigh. That telephone spindle table had served my family well all through my formative years, and even before then. Now, it would serve another family. And it would have even more stories to tell.
All this is actually leading somewhere; trust me.