If you enjoy refinishing furniture, you'll love this blog by my friend Judith Robinson.
Let Your Life Speak by Judith Robinson
When the legs came off the table, I should have paid attention. As we slid the lovely Cherrywood tabletop under the bed I did not ask, “What can I learn from this?” As we wrapped those carved Queen Anne legs in felt for storage, I never gave a thought to listening to my life. I’d refused to face the facts. Square footage of our tiny, new place made less than half the space for what we had left behind. I’d insisted we bring everything, and pouted ‘till we did. (Denial? Ya’ think?)
Not quite an about face (more like a sharp ninety degrees to the left) our circumstances had taken one of those unanticipated turns. Large or small, or somewhere in-between, unhappy surprises we meet keep us on our toes. (Or get us back onto our knees.) Some refer to these moments as “wake-up calls.” In deference to my son-in-law, I now call them “come to Moses moments.”
“Let your life speak,” is an old Quaker saying that I learned from an old Quaker. My grandmother shared her faith this way, quietly, with charity and good works. Parker J. Palmer wrote a small book several years ago entitled Let Your Life Speak. It offers a twist on my Meme’s understanding. Palmer suggests that the conditions of our lives can help us know how and what we can be in this world. If we pay attention.
But, instead of listening to Life, I whined. I whined to myself and to anyone who’d stand still long enough. (Few did.) What possible message could that lovely legless table have brought?
With no room for my beautiful dining suit, we made space for the old kitchen table. A derelict antique, it slid into our custody a quarter century earlier. Fifteen years before finding a home with us, the ancient piece had been rescued one snowy afternoon by my very young, newly widowed mom.
There’s a saying that, when paraphrased, fits my mom quite well. “When the going gets tough, the SHE’s of the world seek an impossible distraction.” Like the lovely table we’d just stowed under our bed, my mother’s lovely life had lost its legs.
With her world spinning out of control she determined to make something right. Her choice was a cast-off table, scarred and battered as she. Six dollars for the table, a buck each for five chairs. She hauled it all home on icy streets from the seediest part of town, roped into her open sedan trunk by a couple of gin reeking derelicts.
Like the fabled Phoenix, (and my mother) that round oak table had likely seen several reincarnations. Mostly solid, mostly stable, it had likely never stood in a fancy dining room – not until it met my mom. There were no hints of former owners, but Mother recognized potential when she saw it.
Now and again, during my father’s lingering illness, she’d pull out a folded page torn from a magazine and dream. The picture was of an ivory antiqued round table in an elegant salon. Her vision on that cold mid-winter day when she hauled that old table home. Both of them, Mom and the table began their rehabilitation together, and the results for both were stunning.
Until it fell into my custody.
If my mother’d had an inkling the abuse that table was to suffer under my hands, my sister’s knees would be under it tonight, not mine. For a short while in the seventies, it wore avocado green. Two moves later, I stenciled yellow tulips around the apron. A later kitchen called for something bright. Red it was. Its current incarnation, a friendly golden oak, is due to a magician. (Something called a professional refinisher.)
For fewer than three years, the dream table held court in that tiny house. It served as a magnet for babies, welcomed old friends and new neighbors. Shared its fine finish with magic marker, candle wax and wine. It absorbed loads of laughter and caught salty tears.
Had I listened to my life as it spoke that whiny day I stowed my lovely, legless, Cherrywood table underneath the bed, I might have heard it say, “When fine things come apart (and they will), look to what endures.”
©2016 Judith Robinson all rights reserved.
Judith shares her talent with us from time-to-time and she always appreciates any comments you have and want to share in the comment section below. Thank you Judith for yet another thoughtful and beautifully written essay.
If you'd like some ideas for food to put on your table, "The Phony Gourmet Cookbook" is in my clearance store and it's 75% off!