Long-Term Memory

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Long-Term Memory

We bought our kitchen table the year we moved back to the farm.

It was a pine rectangle with square pegs and sturdy legs. The saleswoman told us that the craftsmen pounded the wood with chains and ball-peen hammers to give the table its distressed finish.

We paid dearly to have a kitchen table that looked older than it really was. This was the most expensive piece of furniture we'd ever bought. I protected the table so fiercely, you might think it had once served duty in the Upper Room.

The delivery men brought the table to the farm a few days after Thanksgiving that year. But even if it had been arrived in time for the holiday, I wonder if I would have let the fork-wielding toddlers eat from it. After all, this table had been beaten to distressed perfection. And this was as well-worn as I wanted it to look. Ever.

I remember wincing when my mom, sitting at the table's edge, wrote a grocery list on a scrap of paper. Her pencil engraved curvy letters into the pine, a wood that yields easily to pressure.

"Next time," I asked, hands wringing, "could you put something like a magazine under the paper, so it won't go through?

Eight years later, I can hardly find her carving. That's because the entire table is covered in criss-crossed etchings. Our table looks like a Colorado road map.

About a year after our big purchase, I gave up the urge to stand guard. Maybe it's because I had no choice but to surrender to this truth: We bought the table because, well, we actually needed a place to eat. And I suppose I also realized that we live on a farm, not in the Louvre.

Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with a bruised table that earned its wounds the old-fashioned way. I came to appreciate the table for what it was becoming: a storyteller.

Our kitchen table carries a long-term memory all its own. When mid-morning sunlight slants through the picture window, I see our stories engraved in nicks, scrapes and curves of letters.

I run my hands along pine boards that whisper, reminisce. I rediscover a set of tines, imprinted one morning when our youngest daughter pounded into wood. It was her first time using a "big-people fork."

I run a forefinger along a deep, thick scratch -- a 10-inch-long souvenir from a visiting missionary and her errant laptop.

I pull back the chair where my husband sits at supper, and I see long, deep grooves in the slatted back. I laugh and wonder: Does he keep drill bits in his pockets?

I find childlike script, harried scribbles, last night's bread crumbs between the cracks.

I touch a grandfather's checkmarks. He's been gone almost two years now.

Last night, I dropped the church’s laptop on the table. It fell hard, leaving a deep imprint in our table – and another memory in a wooden diary.

And this time, I didn't wince.

"Painted Coffee" photo by Tiffany Ruda. Used with permission. Post by Jennifer Dukes Lee.