Sunday, January 02, 2005

The First Desk

I wrote my dissertation at my Nana's kitchen table. Or, rather, I wrote it at the cherry wood table that had been my Nana's for many years before she died.

This was the table that my poor-as-church-mice grandparents had received as a wedding gift. It was the table at which my mother took most of her meals while growing up. It was the table that moved with me to Minnesota in the middle nineties, and which became my writing desk.

Eight years passed. The desk had a pattern of grooves, all the better for stopping a rolling pencil. The desk had an apron, all the better for steadying the grey kitten on your lap. I could, with eyes closed, run my fingertips over the desk and locate its injuries: the scratches, the patches of thinning varnish, the ghostly rings of glasses put down without coasters.

I was fondest of the table’s most obvious imperfection: the elongated splot of ink, like a hurried birthmark, in its one corner. I liked to think that my mother, an art major, had put the splot there. I liked to think that my grandmother, an easy-going woman, hadn’t fussed about it too much.

Now the table has returned East. And it is again a kitchen table.

We tugged at its “leaves”— the weighty, wing-like extensions that for eight years were tucked under each of the table ends—and made the table into a very grand table indeed. (We do worry that too heavy a burden will send these leaves crashing into the lap of some unhappy person, likely breaking both his or her knees.) We know to treat the table with respect. But we have also, inadvertently, added to the story of the tabletop, which has now a steamy ring from a too-hot Thanksgiving platter, and a puddle glaze of candle wax.

Some day, I will repay the table for its kindness. I'll refinish and restore it. And, in the process, I'll both recover and expunge its “original glory.”

(Up Next: Misunderstood Desks.)


At 12:11 AM, Blogger big-C said...

Love your style- I look forward to reading more!

At 1:32 PM, Blogger Kingmob said...

The wait for a new post on your site, Yello, has more than paid off, and I commend you on a tremendous return to form. The table's significance seems to transcend words, but you capture that significance admirably. However, you might want to reconsider and hold off on refinishing this time-tested piece of lumber.


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