For several weeks, now, every time I have wiped our dining room table (which it requires often, as you can imagine, with this many Littles crowded around it!), it has made me want to write. To tell the story of our table. And then, just last week, B and I began a new adventure together known as Financial Peace University (more on that another time) and wouldn’t you know it? There in the class’s first video, was the story of a dining room table. That pretty much sealed the deal which brings me here, with this table and this very post.
Our dining room table is clearly nothing fancy. Nor is it terribly new (again – clearly!). It comes to us via my family, and not so much in an heirloom way but as more of an apartment necessity way. When I graduated college and was moving into my first apartment with two friends, we needed a table and my aunt had this one ready to pass along to me. She’d had it for years, and if memory serves correctly, maybe one of my uncles used it, too? I’m fairly certain it was housed in California and Minnesota prior to landing in Nebraska, but Illinois and New Jersey might be in that mix, too (my relatives have lead far more wider lives of relocation than I!).
It was a good table, and because the price was right and the responsibility level fairly low (no one wants their grandmother’s carved oak masterpiece table to be exposed to anyone in their early 20s, do they?), I was very glad to have it. I didn’t realize at the time that I would still be using it or quite so glad to have it 12 years later, but really, the reasons are quite the same.
In this season of life with little Littles, of growing our family while not so much our income, there has been no room for something like a new dining room table, much less an actual matching set that includes nice chairs and a hutch or sideboard. This hodgepodge approach is my standard decorating method, by the way. We have yet to “do” a room in our house and not just because the money isn’t there to do so.
We are up to our elbows in the world of Baby Kid Stuff (some days that feels literal). How could anyone coming into my house even see if a room was nicely furnished or decorated for all the books, toys, Angry Birds figurines, and piles of laundry in the way? But that’s what I love about the hodgepodge approach – it is the same as “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and when there is constant threat of things being broken, stained, ripped, or written on, I’d really rather not be worried about it happening to nice, new pieces of furniture.
Which brings me back to our table.
I love our table because it comes with no stress. I don’t have to worry about the children ruining the table because the table is already so worn. It is a place where they can be messy and learn or play. So far three kids have learned to feed themselves at this table, which – as you might correctly guess – is a really messy life skill to obtain. Spaghetti and yogurt stains, not to mention all the milk drips from countless bowls of cereal and the NEVER ENDING trail of cracker crumbs, are constants at my table. But most of that stuff wipes away, and in the end, I am grateful for the independence my Littles have gained while seated around this space.
Our table is also a convenient back drop for creative play. Play-Doh, paint, coloring — all of this and more takes place at our table on a regular basis and some of that, I’ve now learned, doesn’t just wipe away with a wet rag. The pen marks and the scratches, and yes, even the paint spills, show my children’s imaginations at work, and while I sometimes remember to throw down a drop cloth of some sort for these sessions, it is good to know I won’t really have much temptation to freak out when they color outside the lines.
Part of this sense of calm comes from knowing, if I really wanted to some day, I could refinish the table pretty easily. Well, as easily as any Pinterest project, I suppose, but the potential is there. We could take this table and make it new again. Or we could keep it and let one of our kids use it twenty years from now when they are the ones in need of a stress-free table.
Either way, I am glad to have this table and this approach to our current situation. We don’t have to have the nicest or newest dining room table to have wonderful family time around it. We don’t have to hide (OK, some of you would call it protecting) it under a special cloth or plastic to keep it pristine. We can just live with it and around it and let it be a visual reminder that life is messy, life leaves stains and scratches. We are messy. We have stains and scratches. But that doesn’t mean we need replacing or even refinishing.
Like our bumps and bruises, our tables tell our stories. And because I love the people gathered around my table, I love to see them leaving their mark there to help me remember this particular season of life.