It is Saturday, and without kids still at home, I have the privilege of time. Time to sit quietly with my coffee and whatever comes to mind – or just sit, mindlessly. It’s cold outside, warm in here, and suddenly the warmth of my old solid maple coffee table takes command of my thoughts. I realize how she sets the tone in our living room, grounding it, as the hub of it. She seems to have spokes that point back to the past; to the present as it holds today’s periodicals, mail, projects, and just stuff; and pointing as well toward the future with her solid structure saying, ” I’m here for you as long as you need me”. And I BEGIN TO REMEMBER….So, with the way I’m wired, I start to see symbolism, and spiritual applications in the everyday things, and feel that certain writer’s compelling need to share.
First, I’ll try to show you our coffee table. It is a golden brown solid maple, put together with pegs; it has two drop leaves and is round until the leaves are dropped when it becomes a rectangle with curved ends. There are six legs, also solid and rounded with a simple round foot on each. Two of the legs slide outward forming the base for the leaves when they are up. A shallow drawer on each end has the early American brass plate with a handle that softly cla-clanks against the plate when the drawer is opened. One drawer has held various art supplies since my adult children were very small, and the table was then in my mother’s living room. Children love this table; probably because it is down on their level, a little stage for whatever they want to play. They are drawn to it, and I know this because it has been in our family since long before I had children. When I hear the cla-clank of the handle, I know the magical drawer of creative possibilities has been opened; and that watchful eyes need to be present, to watch for markers destined for the sofa or walls, and to praise the fine artwork of young hands. AND I REMEMBER, “Allow the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14. I wish I could reach every pair of little hands that have played around this table and impress upon them how very important they are and how the Lord God loves them.
Another feature of my coffee table is that it has no apron nor surround about the edge. I am able to stretch my legs out and use it for an ottoman. Oh yes! we do put our feet on the coffee table! We can easily reach over from the couch, and slide a coffee cup or a dish onto and off of the table edge without even raising up. I had one of those little mahogany colored lightweights with the table top dropped inside a skirted edge for a short while and it was not user friendly. It went back to the yard sale world. So as I sit here now with my feet upon the table that I love so much, I REMEMBER, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” said Jesus in Matthew 11:28. How many tiring days have ended with my feet propped upon that table, and my petitions and praise offered to the Lord!
The most important feature I want you to see, is what time has put on it. Many marks of time are in the form of scratches, cracks, dings and color variations. Oh what a flood of memories these hold! The memories go back as far as 1970 when my mother was introduced to furniture stripping. She and her good friend found this coffee table at an auction, thought it had good bones, and she brought it home. The old green paint was stripped off and they found a beautiful maple table beneath. That reminds me how Mama was always good at drawing the good out of people also. She didn’t judge a book by its cover, or a table by its paint, but looked deeply for the good. As each grandchild was born he or she grew to enjoy playing at Granny’s coffee table. My daughter kept “office supplies” in one drawer and played for hours and hours there. She posted office names on every door in her Granny’s house, and the coffee table was her headquarters. My son put several dings in the wood with a little toy pistol and sent many herds of animals running across the broad brown surface. He took sled and sleigh ornaments off the tree and pulled them all over the coffee table. My sister’s children next, and then our brother’s children, all making their own form of fun at Granny’s table, until she charitably handed it down to me when we had none. AND I REMEMBER, “give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.” Luke 6:38. And she passed from here with a full heart, a full house, so much given, so much received! I see now where this was going – it’s not about a table, or the coffee, nor the nicks and dings. It’s about the traces we leave behind.
Now Mother’s great-grands play at Aunt Trisha’s coffee table. One very dear little boy, a friend’s son who calls me Aunt held onto that table every time they came, until he could walk. Like my son, and nephews, he operated tractors, and matchbox cars over the fields of my coffee table. The great nieces and children of friends have made master pieces on this table with the crayons and markers, construction paper and coloring books I keep in the one drawer. Candles and walkie-talkies for finding our way before cell phones, are kept in the other one. The table has endured among other things, a 10 month storage where it suffered mildew I had to remove; being faded on one end by a sunny window; being kicked by three different ones of us wearing orthopedic boots; sports the scratches of a high speed chase by my daughter’s dog across the table; and has worn snow scene displays and candles dripping through many holiday seasons. Babies have drooled on it, banged toys on it, and learned to walk holding to it. We eat, drink, and laugh around it. Homework, hobbies, and games have found it a great place to land. My favorite occupants for now, includes a stack of magazines, a basket from Guyana, the Bible, and my coffee cup. Each time I clean it, I relish the marks of loved ones and what they’ve left behind. “In everything give thanks.”
I set down my coffee cup, now unconcerned with the possibility of leaving a smudge, and run my hand along the smooth surface, remembering, lovingly, those who’ve gathered round and used this coffee table. Some who are no longer coming and going here in our house, but whose marks are here – beautiful memories – nicked, dinged, kicked, scratched and marked in time. I’m pretty sure that circle on this end of the table was put there by me; it fits my coffee mug perfectly.