Uppermost House: A long for the fork

PeterLewisTreehouseCMYKBy S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

High from the north the new summer dawn slants in early, golden and burning above the distant ridge and slicing through a muggy haze over the meadow and blazing in through the window, streaking and glinting across the top of our dining room table.

I bought the table 16 years ago, new but unfinished, sanding it for hours, kneeling low to eye its surface for every imperfection, running my hand over the things I couldn’t see, then sanding again.

I didn’t stain it, but left it natural, having on good authority the trust that over time it would deepen and darken under all the layers of clear finish. And deepen and darken it did, richly into shades of russet and copper and bronze and gold.

At first it was perfect, flat and shiny, without mar or ding or scratch. But that didn’t last. Life happened on that table, particularly when our children got their hands on it. My son and my daughter, homeschooling for a decade, a bit cavalier with sharp and pointy things and only dimly aware of the value of time and fine furniture.

Dents from dropped forks and carelessly tossed calculators, stains from drink glasses, staple dings, the crisscrossed and indecipherable ghosts of handwriting pressed through thin paper, the word “List” discernible, but with nothing under it, scratches from objects slid, pinpricks from compass points, faint knife scores, tiny round shotgun impressions from a tattooing pen during a physics test, and a host of other and sundry blemishes, nicks, whorls, and ingrained flourishes.

And then the children grew and fledged and left, off into the world discovering their own lives and sanding their own tables.

EP peter lewis column copyThe house is quiet now. My wife and I alone, growing old together. Just as it should be.

In these childless years, it has become my barely-conscious habit to run my hand along the southwest corner of that old table as I pass by. And sometimes, when the low light arrests me in my traverse of the dining room and all those life-marks rise up and glint at me, I stop and kneel low and eye that roughened plane and run my hands across the lovely imperfect surface. I’m so thankful that I never gave into the annoyance that triggered the temptation to refinish the old table.

It reminds me of the beautiful monologue of Craig Morrison in the sweet movie Still Mine, as he reminisces about the dining room table he built.

“Well, there were a lot of times I regretted not making that table out of oak. But as the years went by the scars added up. The imperfections turned that table into something else. That’s the thing about pine. Holds a lot of memories.”

The last time I caressed my table was three days ago, very early as a pewter dawn reddened the east. I stood still with my hand resting on that faintly battered surface as the breathless quiet ebbed about my knees. And I longed for the clatter of a dropped fork.

Please follow and like us: