Frankenstein has fewer scars than this table. Pencil scratches next to the unfinished math page, nail polish in the middle fold-out, a sliver chunked out at the edge, divets and dents and ballpoint pen dragged 10 inches. I don’t have a story for every scar—they often appear without explanation and we assign blame according to the substance: wood burn (son), paint (daughter), chip (me), Sharpie (could be anyone). My husband is too careful.
It’s the only one we’ve got. It was the very first thing I knew we needed when we bought our first home, to ground us, to gather us. Round for everyday function, this sturdy centerpiece of our home splits in half and spills out a shinier plank for puzzles and guests. It’s lived two other places: my brother’s home, when our next place was too small, and our current home, where it is in it’s zenith.
Though we long for elbow room—a formal dining room, perhaps, for eating purposes only—we’ve learned that too-small space in our family unaccountably binds us together. The backseat of our economy hybrid car is a laboratory for conflict management, with failed experiments and occasional successes. Our miniscule bathroom snuggly accommodates four, if you’re willing to shift around and share the mirror. This table requires us to constantly consider our priorities: is this collage-on-box project more critical than a well-balanced meal? Of course it is, for four days in a row. Can the 1,000-piece mountain landscape slide to one end so we can also spread out homework and eat pizza? Indeed.
This table can do everything, except look perfect and new. Then what purpose would it hold? We’ll keep this for as long as it will have us, and we will love it, scars and all.
Jill Abenth sits, dreams, quilts, cries, plays games, laughs, writes, argues, and sometimes even eats at this table with her family (all of whom are now taller than her) in St. Paul, Minnesota.