Kitchen table memories linger longer than coffee mug stains

Picture your childhood kitchen table. Close your eyes and put yourself there. What did the chairs feel like? Did your feet touch the ground? Was the table round or rectangular? Did it hold an extra leaf when company came over?

My own kitchen table was a $30 Craigslist find. Someone had refinished the top, painted it red and been unhappy with how it turned out. I bought it because it was sturdy, and the price was right. Now after so many years of owning it, I appreciate the no-mar finish. No placemats are needed; our table doesn’t stain.

Kitchen tables have memories that last decades, and mine has some doozies to tell. Like on Christmas Eve, when the upstairs toilet overflowed and gushed “level 3 contamination water” on our guests. Or when my Girl Scout troop dissected owl pellets, and scattered regurgitated owl gunk all over the wood.

My kitchen table could also tell you about babies who spit out mashed peas, toddlers who stood upright for every meal and kindergartners who scraped chairs across the kitchen floor to sneak into the cookie cabinet.

When it comes to furniture, I’m a complex mixture of scared, frugal and sentimental. The fear comes from worrying that something expensive could be destroyed faster than I could say: “Please use a coaster.” Frugality makes me want to save the Earth as well as my budget by continuing to use old things. Sentimentality however, is the trickiest beast of all. Sentimentality keeps me grimacing on my sitz bones, unwilling to change.

The sad truth is that our kitchen chairs are uncomfortable. Their farmhouse backs and wooden seats make relaxation difficult. If I sit up straight, I sit directly on bone. That explains my horrible posture at mealtime, which is nothing new. I’ve slouched and slumped for the 14 years we’ve owned the set.

As 2020 has dragged on longer than the scratches on our wood floor, I’m forcing myself to face difficult realities. My kitchen table set is a pain in the butt — literally — and I have the power to change that. I’m not traveling on vacation or buying fancy clothes. I could purchase a new dining set and eat meals in comfort.

Easy, right? Go to a furniture store and whip out a credit card. Except it’s not that simple.

Other languages give possessions masculine and feminine pronouns. Marie Kondo devised a whole process of saying goodbye to belongings we loved. L.M. Montgomery wrote a book called “Pat of Silverbush” about a girl who couldn’t bear to say goodbye to household items.

Picture your childhood kitchen table. Were your mealtimes happy? Did you have to take three bites or clean your plate? Did you rush to finish eating so you could watch TV?

I can recall these things — and someday my children will picture them, too. They’ll remember me, slouching at our kitchen table, not a coaster or placemat in sight.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at [email protected].

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