Becoming Beautiful

Our old kitchen table served many purposes, including providing a holding place for this photo of the unboxing process of my iPad 2.

I gave away our kitchen table.

It was the first piece of furniture my husband and I actually agreed on when we bought new furniture for this house. I loved that table. My family grew up around it. We had important conversations about everything from why Buttercup was the toughest Powerpuff Girl to what happened on September 11th, 2001 while we were eating dinner with our children that night. As they got older, we had the sex talk when sitting at that table and we sat quietly through meals as beloved family members and friends passed away. We discussed life and death and faith and politics and science and we did thousands of math problems. We wrote essays and drew pictures and wrapped packages and read books. It was the only piece of furniture that my kids colored on and when we took it apart to take it over to my friend, who has a wonderful little boy, I saw the crayon marks on the bottom of the table top and I smiled.

When I refinished the table a few years ago, I left the crayon marks in tact. I don’t think I even thought about it at the time. The bottom of the table wasn’t finished to begin with and I had no intention of finishing the underside of it. It wasn’t the part we looked at. It didn’t need to be pretty. The top was what mattered. It was the part that we looked at every day. It had to be pretty and, after my son had engraved his name on the table with a fork, something had to be done. So I broke out my power sander and some tools and on a summer afternoon, I sat out in the sun and refinished that table and forged the surface into my idea of beauty and once I was pleased with it, and we chose a color that matched the backs of the chairs, I stained it, varnished it and deemed it fit for kitchen duty again. I remember looking at it with my husband when I got it back inside and giving him a hug as I smiled at the table. I was so proud of how it had turned out.

It’s funny that I didn’t notice the top that I’d worked so hard to make pretty when we put it in the SUV to haul it away. Somehow, over the course of thirteen years, that ugly underside with its scuffs and swirls of Crayola became important. At the moment that I was giving it away, it became beautiful.

I will always have the memories of us sitting around that table, being a family and doing what families do, but somehow, letting go of that table feels like I’m slowly, but surely, erasing their childhood from our home. I’ve redone most of the rooms in this house since they outgrew their coloring phase. The majority of the furniture that we bought when we moved in has been replaced, or is in the process of being replaced due to age. I’ve painted over the crayon marks on the walls, refinished surfaces and buffed and scraped and ripped up carpet that had stains on it that my kids made when they were small and now here they are. My wonderful daughter, the youngest of our two, will graduate high school this year and she is no longer a child. Her older brother will enter his twenties this year. He’s on the precipice of getting a job, moving out and meeting the person that will be his partner in life and starting a family of his own. When I was his age, my little family was just beginning and it’s hard to think about that. They aren’t children anymore. It sometimes hurts to say that out loud, because, in my heart, they will always be my children. I will always remember the sound of their laughter as they sat around that kitchen table with my husband and me and threw green beans at each other and, to me, they will always be beautiful.

I knew that I had to tell my friend about the crayon marks, but I waited until I had a moment when her son wouldn’t hear, so that he wouldn’t think I was giving him permission. I hope he does grab a crayon and makes his mark on that table and that the next family that gets it when she gives it away, leaves the underside alone as I did and comes to appreciate the beauty beneath and sees it as I do. It is an artifact with a history and at one point in time, a much loved child sat beneath it on the kitchen floor with a crayon in their hand and imagined and dreamed and believed in magic.