Friday, February 25, 2011

Where the family gathers

I’m thinking that if I marketed it correctly, I could get a pretty penny if I put my kitchen table up for sale on an online auction site. Not only is it a well-made and well-loved table, but also because on one side, near the edge, there is a distinct image of the Virgin Mary.

Because it is the Virgin Mary, or what’s left of an imprint of her in window cling form.

A few years ago when my children were younger and there were going through a particularly ferocious window cling phase, we were gifted a set of gel-like clings representing the manger scene at Christmas. There was a small stable, Joseph, Jesus, a few animals, and Mary. A red Mary, to be exact.

At some point, a child who will remain nameless removed the window cling from our back sliding door and placed it on our beloved table. There it sat, overnight, quite innocently until the next morning when I went to put Mary back in the stable. Lo and behold, she left a lovely image of herself right there, in bright red, on our kitchen table.

I should say that our table has always been a bit of a prized possession. When my husband and I first married, we were given a sum of money for a kitchen table. Instead of being economical, we went for quality and spent every last cent and then some on a solid oak, locally made table.

“It’ll last for generations!” we told ourselves, and imagined everything from toddlers to teenagers sitting on all sides of the shaker style furniture. We were convinced that our choice to purchase something super sturdy would be indestructible by even the wildest of kids.

Then, of course, enter Mary.

At first we were frantic. We tried every cleaner on the market and even called the cling company, all to no avail. Hands cracking from chemicals and elbow grease, I did the only thing I could think of. I put a placemat over it and called it an off-center centerpiece.

All these years later, we have learned that protecting that table is a complete waste of time. Since Mary “left her mark” we have added fork marks, pen marks, something permanent and unidentifiable on the underside of the table, and most recently a special sanded area where the coarse grit paper went more on the table and less on the Cub Scout race car.

My immediate reaction was the instinctive yell. “You ruined the table! It’s all scratched up and looks terrible!” Then I added some guilt, as mothers do best. “Do you know how many hundreds, no, thousands of dollars it will take to fix this? Hope you like the toys you have because you’re not getting anything new for a really long time.”

Thankfully my husband was there to put things in perspective. With total calmness he said, “it’ll just draw less attention to Mary,” a mark we have learned to ignore over all these years.

I’ve come to realize two things about kitchen tables in my time. For one, kids will inevitably destroy kitchen tables. From the unbelievable powers of Bic pens and Elmers glue, to the sheer force that is toddlerhood, there are bound to be growing pains etched in every table top. And secondly, there is nothing more precious than the memories contained within those grains of wood.

A kitchen table holds more memories than you’d guess. For our table, I can remember the first time Thanksgiving dinner I made as a married woman. I remember strapping a high chair to it and scraping Playdoh out of the cracks. I remember squeezing my whole family around it for every birthday. There are school projects born on that table, and thousands of cookies cut there, too. It’s a safe haven for family time that seems to sadly dwindle each year.

So it goes without saying that even if someone offered big bucks for a solid oak table with an image of the Virgin Mary, I’d have to turn them down.

Those sandpaper scratch marks are worth way too much.


2 comments:

Koala Bear Writer said...

Great post. Our kitchen table isn't quite that marked up... yet... :) but other things in our home bear the wear and tear of multiple moves or a child's fun. As you say, better to focus on the good memories.

Anonymous said...

that was great! thanks..i was just google-ing how to remove stain from those darn window clings that "ruined" my wood table, and came across this instead. and you couldn't be more right...so, i guess that is where they will stay!!

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