The Table Between Us

Bookshelf VignetteOne of my favorite things about living in such a remarkably old house is the number of built in shelves. I adore these shelves. They allow my favorite books and quirky photos to live among us, and not stashed in a trunk somewhere dusty. Even better, in between the books and the frames I fill these shelves not with objets d’art, but with objets d’histoires. To be eligible for display in my home, an object must have a story…and it better be good:

The ornately cut bottle of whiskey, dated 1932 – pulled out of our bathroom wall during a remodel. I can still see the mess of plaster and tile. My husband can still hear the contractor’s laugh.

The orange Hermés blanket – discovered in a rolled up army tent at the lake house. I can still smell the mildew. My daughters can still hear the clatter of poles.

The copper pitcher with an odd dent – gifted by a shoeless bartender in Provence. I can still see the waiter’s blue scarf. My girlfriend can still taste the mussels and wine.

The large Chinese hatbox – used by a merchant in Thailand to ship home my purchases. I can still see the handwritten label. My husband can still hear the thwack of the twine.

Perhaps it’s the writer in me, but I love feeling as though we are surrounded by stories in our home. And we, in a rather feng shui-esque phenomenon, are storytellers ourselves. Our house is full of one recounting or another – tales from the playground, scenes from the morning train, verbal imitations of ridiculous emails. Whether the vignettes of carefully curated objets is a reflection of us, or we are a reflection of the vignettes, only the universe knows.

But of all the figurative stories filling our space, my absolute favorite is the story of our dining room table, though “table” is perhaps a stretch. It is really a 1) porch post lathe from Springfield, Massachusetts on the bottom and 2) a parquet dance floor from a dance hall in Detroit on the top.

Clearly, the gentleman who was ingenious enough to put these two “objets” together to create one massive surface around which to gather and eat spoke my language. The table seats two as comfortably as it seats 20, it is magazine worthy (and has had its 15 minutes of fame as such), and it begs for stories – about its origins, about our origins, and about our collective destinations.

My youngest daughter and I are particularly good at supposing stories about the table’s history. We have imagined happy-go-lucky kids skating past rows of beautifully turned porch posts along tree lined streets in pick-your-city America, and we have imagined beautifully turned out couples sashaying across a dance floor in Detroit. We take turns in the telling of our made-up tales:

Her scene: a family twirls Christmas lights around their porch railing.

My scene: an elderly couple hold each other on their way up the porch steps.

Her scene: awkward steps on a crowded dance floor, and then the couple discovers the beat.

My scene: awkward dance partners on a streamer-strewn floor, and then the couple discovers each other.

Recently, my daughter asked me whether we could stand on the table: a plea to commune with our imagined suburbia and listen hard for the echoes of dancers’ steps.   I admit; I hesitated. Standing on the table felt – impolite. Unclean. A little scary.   And then I realized in agreeing to stand on my table neé porch-post-lathe-and-dance-floor, I was giving my daughter the very best of stories:

“The dining room table – climbed upon by me and my mother. I can still see the twinkle of lights. My mother can still feel the brush of the tulle.”

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