In 1943, my Grandma brought home a little wooden table for her two children.
She probably didn’t think much of a small wooden table, just that it was a practical table to have for her kids to gather around. Many moms today probably have something similar, but I think it’s accurate to say that most of our kids’ craft tables are from IKEA, or have something like Elsa, Elmo, or “Little Tykes” all over it.
In its first years, it sat in my grandmother’s den. Traditions were started and memories of little children gathering at its side to finish homework, eating a snack, doing arts and crafts or celebrating birthdays began.
Although daily life wasn’t photographed as much back in 1945, we have at least one photo of the wooden table, beside it stands my aunt and cousin, celebrating their second birthday together. What amazes me the most about this photograph, is that I can recognize almost everything in this room, even 75 years later. Most of the items are still being shared amongst family members and used today, especially that little wooden table.
If that table could talk, I’d sit and listen for hours to the stories it could tell.
Would it remember my dad learning to draw by its side? Would it remember my sister and I coming to visit my grandma, and making stacks and stacks of pretend letters to shove through my grandma’s front door mail slot…which we thought was the coolest. How many times had our family gathered around it to sing happy birthday? How many tea parties has it hosted?
It’s had some quiet years, it sat in storage waiting for the next child who would need it. After my dad and his sister grew up, next was my cousin Wendy. When the table was in her room, it once again became the center of many happy memories. It was the table her dolls sat at for many parties. It was where she sat to work on puzzles during rainy days, and where she placed her little Christmas tree during the holidays.
After Wendy, came my little girl. My dad sanded as many of the bumps and ridges that he could off of it, and repainted it. My sister spent weeks bringing the original chairs back to life. She made Looney Tunes leather seats that put a smile on my face every time I see them.
On my daughter’s first birthday, it was like new again, and it held her cake the first time we sang happy birthday to her.
She learned how to build her first Lego set on this table.
She carved her first pumpkin on this table.
She has hosted many a tea party, and stuffed animal birthday parties at this table.
She started school on this table.
Then, along came her little brother, and before very long, he was ready to paint at the table, to squish Play-Doh around on the table, to bang blocks on the table’s surface.
My two little ones put it through the ringer in a short amount of time, so I dragged it out to our garage, sanded it down and put on a fresh coat of paint. Like magic, it once again looked new. Almost new, except for the divots on the wooden surface from my dad’s pencil. Little potholes where he had jammed his pencil into the wood, perhaps when he was stuck on a math problem, or his sister was annoying him.
The same day I brought the freshly painted table back into our house, my son took his blocks and banged some new marks into the top of the table, right next to his pop-pop’s pencil holes. I just smiled, realizing that he had added his own bit of history to the little wooden table that has become an unexpected family heirloom.
When my Grandma carried the table into her den, and watched her children play at it’s side, she probably never imagined that her great grandchildren would sit at that same table one day.
If ever there was a testament to the durability of handmade, wooden furniture, this is it. However worn down it gets, it can be sanded and painted to look brand new again. Its timelessness, and practicality have made it the perfect piece to hold the memories of many generations in our family.
Now I look around my home and wonder what pieces I own that my grandchildren might have one day. There may be some unexpected thing in my home that they will remember me by. Most of all, I know that one day my grandkids, or the next generation of cousins, will be playing at this table. It will probably need another facelift, to be ready to support all the play and imagination of the new curious and creative children who will make countless memories at its side.