An Object of Renewal and Rebirth
I have an old drop-leaf kitchen table that my father's parents used in their home on Norwood Ave., which is located in Pennsauken, NJ. My father inherited it from them when they died, and I inherited it from my parents when they died. Again, it is one of my family treasures.
As you look at this photo, it seems quite cluttered with a silver set from my mother's side of the family, an Asian lamp, and a handful of mixed silverware. However, as cluttered as it is, I like the table and the added adornments.
Since objects began talking to me several month ago, I have often wondered which of my treasures will be the next. One morning after returning from my bike ride around the lake, I passed the old pine table as it began to talk to me.
"I have watched you for your entire life. It has been interesting what you do and how your life changes over time. Indeed, I have also watched three generations of your family. It is fascinating to me to observe three different families with whom I have lived over the past century."
The pine table obviously had memories of me but also of my father and his parents. The pine table began its journey back over the past century.
"Your father's parents came from a different time in America. They were not wealthy, but they were financially able to afford a live-in housekeeper who cared for the home and cooked meals for them. Your grandparents always ate in their dining room. In fact, you have their dining room furniture in your dining room. However, I am just a simple pine table, and your grandparents relegated me to the kitchen. The only use that I had was for your grandparent's live-in on which she ate her meals. The rest of the time, things were put on top of me before being moved somewhere else."
I had to admit to the table that I never understood why my grandparents had such a simple table when they could afford a great deal more.
"While your grandparents were not rich, they had the means for nice things. I am not like an oak, mahogany, or one of the other finer woods. I am just an old pine table. My use was in the background of their lives. I lived backstage."
I asked the pine table about why my grandparents lived in the manner that they did.
"Well, a century ago, people tended to recognize the station in life, in which people were born. Much of their lives were living in that style whether or not it made sense to them at the time. They were aware of the façade that they were to maintain, and they did. In addition, it was not a happy marriage. Your grandfather was a nice person who worked hard. Your grandmother was a bit self-absorbed. She got pregnant and had their first child who died soon after his birth due to the Spanish flu back then.
"I am sure that affected her psychologically. However, she got pregnant soon afterwards and had your father. I watched the marriage change from two people who once loved each other to two people who were bonded by your father. The marriage was merely a persona of what should have been. Your father became the thing that kept them together. He became their golden boy. All their efforts were designed to demonstrate that all was well in the marriage, and he was the example.
"They did not need a cook preparing meals for a family of three, but it was their charade of looking like a great American family. Years later, when you were about four, your grandfather had a heart problem and had to be taken to the hospital. Your father went to visit him. It was apparent that your grandfather was not going to make it. I recall hearing him telling his mother that she needed to go to see him in the hospital. She wrote it off with a comment that he would be okay in a couple of days. Well, in a couple of days, he died."
I mentioned to the table that I had heard my father telling me years later about her indifference regarding my grandfather. While I don't have any memory of my grandfather, I do remember being in their living room and a casket being there. I do not have any memory of him being in the casket; I just recall the casket.
"You grandmother moved to a smaller place and your parents moved into the house. Over the next handful of years, you and your brothers lived there. However, in the early 50s, your father got a promotion and moved to Mt. Lebanon, which is a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA. Your parents packed me up along with all the family's possessions and moved with the family.
"Those days weren't particularly happy times for your parents and me. My new home was in the basement where things were often stored on top of me. As for your mother, she began her decline medically and died from lupus. However, your father like his father worked hard at keeping the family's finances in order. During that time, your dad gave me to you."
I told the pine table that I remember acquiring it back then. At that time, the pine table was still white. Apparently, the white paint covered the actual pinewood in an attempt to make the table look better. Then the pine table continued.
"It interested me that when you got me that the first thing that you did was to use a tool that would heat the white paint. The paint would bubble, which allowed you to scrape off the old paint. You spent hours removing the paint and then sanding me. Then you stained me with walnut stain and shellacked me. Then you removed one of my leaves and reattached it so that it was now perpendicular to my top. Now, you could see both my leaves at the same time. Over the years, all sorts of items have adorned my top."
I followed up on the pine table's comment with telling it about a friend of mine, GiGi. We both have drop-leafed tables. She has one in her home in Buena Vista, GA, which dates back to the time of the American Revolution. We both treasure our tables. While her table has great monetary value, we treasure our tables for their history and meaning for us. The resale value is not a part of the equation. Then the pine table began again. Finally, the table asked a most haunting question.
"And what meaning do I have to you, since I do not have any real monetary worth? Aside from me being a part of your family's history, why am I one of your treasures?"
I could not think what the table meant; I just like this piece of the past and shrugged my shoulders. The table shared with me its insight.
"I think that I am an object which holds your hopes and dreams for the future. Whether in good or bad times, I am a reminder to you of your dreams. Whether you are facing medical, professional, or personal problems, you somehow are always able to bounce back. The first thing that you did upon acquiring me was to remove the old paint and give me new life so all could see. Both of us are stories of renewal and rebirth."
Visit the Connecting the Dots page to read more about this topic.
Visit the The Last Lecture page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Dancing with Death page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Talking with Objects page to read more about this topic.
Visit the GiGi page to read more about this topic.
Visit the Best and Worst of Times page to read more about this topic.