“A house with old furniture has no need of ghosts to be haunted.” Hope Mirrlees, Lud-in-the-Mist
I love antiques and pieces handed down through the years. Each tells a story about our relatives reminding us of those who built our family framework. Although the stories may fade over time the well-worn signs of use remain on the surfaces of chairs, chests, silver and tables. Some people are not attracted to this decor style and I do not surround myself with furniture from an earlier era but a random picture on display or my grandmother’s tea set make me smile each time I pass them by. I am remembering so much more than what comes into view at the moment and this is why, to me, old furniture will always have a place in my home to tell their stories.
I distinctly remember many, many years ago when I was young and probably just heading out on my own, saying to my mother that a particular piece of furniture in her house needed replacing. It had been with us in three homes that I could remember and wasn’t it time to freshen up the living room and get a new coffee table? Her response was simple,
“I like this table just fine.” This was her response every time I ever brought up the idea of getting a new coffee table. Over the years she had bought a new couch, love seat, chair…why not a new coffee table?
“I like this table just fine.” I never understood her reasoning and at some point just let the topic rest.
Just before my mom passed away, she spent time in and out of the hospital. On one occasion, just before she was to return home, I went to her house to do light cleaning and restock a few refrigerator items. I vacuumed and dusted (I hate dusting!) and as I ran the cloth over that dreaded coffee table I loathed so much I became mesmerized reading the stories laying before me. Staring back at me was my childhood penmanship engraved at the edge of the coffee table’s surface. My elementary scrawl immediately took me to weekday afternoons sitting on the floor with the sofa at my back, Brady Bunch turned on the TV, doing my homework while waiting for my mom to return from work.
Along the bottom shelves of the two tiered table there is trim-work where I could feel years worth of wear-and-tear through my dusting cloth. I rubbed over the scratch marks put there by our dog, Heidi, when she was just a puppy. Heidi was our first family pet who was famous for seeking out lost tennis balls. Somehow her favorite ball was lodged under the table and true to form Heidi, the dachshund digger that she was, dug until she unwedged her beloved tennis ball leaving behind the enthusiasm of her efforts. I’ll never forget Mom’s anger at the dog for what she had done but with that situation she taught us how we cannot express anger at the little one’s in our lives because they don’t understand. With fondness I rub gently those now faded, but deep grooves and run through younger days of a girl and her dog and warm canine memories that run just as deep.
Moving toward the bottom shelves I began dusting around the magazines and books resting there. These shelves always held our childhood Bibles and I am disappointed they are not here today. However, upon opening the one closed cabinet space within this table, I am rewarded with the site of three large Bibles. I immediately grab mine to skim through its pages for my favorite pictures and passages I remember from my childhood. For some reason I was always drawn to the story and picture of Daniel in the lion’s den and remember worrying if God would ever help Daniel? Hiding within the pages of my bible I found my high school and college graduation announcements along with several notes I’d written to my mother over the years. One wishing her a good day at work, many saying ‘I’m sorry’ for various reasons and there was my wedding announcement from the paper slipped in the mix, too. Scrap booking back then was a bit more simple – all she needed was a Bible, a special momento worth saving and a quick flip to the page where she felt she should press that particular memory.
Ironically, I now have a coffee table very much like my mother’s. It has been in two homes and has watched my children grow into the young adults they are today. We have played games on it, done homework, painted nails (it boasts the acetone smears as proof!), pranced ponies across it, built Lego’s and rested weary feet upon this tabletop as we watched movies on a Friday night. My husband even fell through its wooden surface while sitting on it doing some TV maintenance. A very handy man is he so it now looks as good as it did prior to him busting the boards. Yes, my very large, very scarred coffee table is showing signs of wear and tear and probably is in need of updating. As a matter of fact, I’ve looked for several replacements over the past few years but to date have found nothing yet that speaks to me. Nothing that speaks to me like my mother’s coffee table did that Sunday afternoon telling me why, after all those years, she never got rid of that old piece of furniture.
She knew the stories well and liked them just fine. I can’t argue with that.