Harvest Table Blues!

Fifteen years ago I moved to Waterloo with my new husband. I was in university at the time and being a newly wed and a young student, I needed to make some money. I got a job at one of the markets in St. Jacobs, working Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday of each week. The job started before 6:00am each day and went all day long. I sold items to tourists and was kept busy during those non-stop days. But often, at the end of a long day, when our little stall had closed, but before the rest of the market had ended, my husband would come by and we’d wander around the market place. It was then, during our first year of marriage that we first stumbled across a Mennonite Furniture maker. The furniture that was created by this carpenter was stunning. Each piece was customizable, solid wood, finished to your preferences. They were high quality, beautiful and fabulously expensive. It was that year, in 2003, that we fell in love with a dining room table. A huge harvest table with two detachable ends that could comfortably sit 14 people. It was everything I had ever imagined a table could be!
At the time we lived in a tiny, basement apartment that backed onto a parking lot and always smelled of the neighbours cooking. We knew that no table would fit into our tiny space, but we started to save. We saved and talked about that table as we moved from our first apartment to our first home. The first house we bought was a town house, tall and thin and infinitely small, no harvest table was going in there either. So, we continued to save. By the time we moved back to Burford into our first ‘family’ home, we were beyond thrilled by the presence of a dining room. A dining room! The glory of it! We’d been waiting years for a space big enough to put a table in and we finally had it. The week we moved into our new home we went to the Mennonite Furniture place and customized our table. Solid wood, thick legs, distressed appearance. We were so happy. Even once we moved to our ‘forever’ home, the only non-negotiable criteria was a space big enough for our table.
Even to this day, 15 years after I first laid eyes on that piece of furniture, I love it. I still don’t own any other nice furniture. My furniture is well worn, well used, well loved… but far from nice – except for my table. This table, now over 10 years old has seen thousands of meals. It has been there through my scrapbooking phase and my sewing phase and my gardening phase. It’s seen gallons of glitter glue, mountains of play dough, Pokemon cards and a steady stream of board games. Everything else in my house could come or go, but my table….sigh. It holds precious memories, years of saving, and has come in handy at every family event since we bought it.
But something happened this week.
My children were obediently sitting at the table as I served up their dinner. One by one I brought over their plates. The last plate I brought over was my middle son’s. As I came to his place at the table I saw the most devastatingly terrible thing I have ever witnessed. There, carved into the wood, right at my son’s spot was his name. Big, bold letters, with a deeply notched circle around them. The carved name and circle around it is as big as my hand. There’s no missing it. No hiding it. No guessing what it ‘might be’. It’s just my sons name on my beautiful Harvest table.
I didn’t cry, but I wanted to.
I felt sick. My one piece of nice furniture, my one favourite material item, MY table – with my son’s name carved, deep and obvious right in the middle. It’s just not fair! This has been a hard pill to swallow.
Yet, since this occurrence just over a week ago, I’ve received a steady stream of the exact same advice. ‘Cherish it!’
“Cherish it?!” I have wondered at this absurd advice!
‘Cherish it’ has been the advice of more that 10 different people who I’ve told my devastating story to.
Some people have even called my sons carving ‘beautiful’, ‘sweet’ and ‘funny’. And since no one except me has had the same gut- wrenching reaction to the carving on my table, I’ve been forced to evaluate my feelings. I have come to the realization (in my head at least) that stuff doesn’t really matter. I love the table, but even more, I love the memories that have been formed around that table. I love that it’s the best purchase my husband and I ever bought. I love the fact that it’s where our family sits every single day. I love that there have been parties gathered around that table, and Christmas dinners and Pinterest nights with my friends. I love the table more for what it represents, than for how it looks. I love it more for the service it provides my family than for the colour of the stain. I love it because it’s a table for my family, a table that was bought specifically to suit my life! And my little man with the incredible carving skills, well, he’s a pretty important part of my life!
There might be wisdom in the advice to cherish it. I may just have to give up the desire to have nice furniture. Instead I’m going to focus on furniture that works for me and my people. Furniture that brings about memories and says something about who we are and what’s important to us. One day I might have nice things, but for now? I have my kids, and I absolutely want to cherish them. To cherish every moment I have with them. Every second I sit at that table and look into their beautiful brown eyes. So, though my favourite possession is a little less fancy, and a little less ‘nice’, I think I might just cherish it a little more, now that I’ve realized why it is I love it so much!

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