Saturday, 13 June 2015

At My Mother's Table

My mother's table has been sitting in my garage since last July. We moved it here, along with a U-Haul full of stuff, after she went into a nursing home. I brought it home for my middle daughter who knew she would need a table when she got her first real job and her first real apartment. 

My husband and I already have a lovely oak table, rebuilt by my father in law for us shortly after we married. He found it at an antique store, had a new skirt milled for it, and refinished it. I refinished it again not so long ago. It's a solid table, and it was built with love. But it is also small. So when Elizabeth got her apartment, we decided to give her the smaller table and use the larger one ourselves. 

Family Christmas
My mother's table has a heavy oak pedestal and a solid round skirt and 4 original leaves. Pulled out to its full length, it seats 14 comfortably as it did many times in my parent's house when our whole family was together. 

Cookie decorating
My parents bought the table from an estate sale when I was a kid. I have no idea where it came from. I refinished the top of it a lovely golden brown when I was 17. It hasn't been refinished since. And after we set it up in our living room, taking three of us to hoist it upright, I could see it needed refinishing again. One side was particularly worn and I realized that was the side where my mom sat-alone- for the past few years since my dad's death.  The finish was worn down to nothing by the caregiver's vigorous scrubbing.

I wondered if I should refinish it the same golden colour or a darker brown to match the sideboard and china cabinet?  Elizabeth said she preferred the brown. The stain at the hardware store did not have samples, so the kid in the paint department kindly tested at least 7 kinds of stain for me. None were golden brown. I finally settled on a darker brown called "Colonial American."  

Dad rolling out pie crust.
I love refinishing furniture. I don't do it too often and I'm too impatient to do a thorough job, but it's rewarding to see a solid piece of of craftsmanship regain it's original appearance. And as I scour and scrape and sand the table, I think about its past. A myriad of activities have taken place at my mother's table.  It's been the setting of breakfasts and coffee klatches and family dinners and staff parties. Many pie crusts have been rolled out by my dad on it's surface. Dozens of cookies have been decorated. Hundreds of figure skating costumes cut out.  I have stood on this table to have a hem measured. So many hands of canasta played until deep into the night. I've set it countless times, using the everyday china and cutlery- and the fancy china and silver. I discovered a small circular indentation- and remembered the little cylinder of metal used in making self-covered buttons. It must have slipped and left this mark. I left it alone. The table needs its battle scars.

Finally, the top of the table is smooth and bare. The sides and base will have to wait for another day. I spread on the dark brown stain and wait, then buff it off with a cloth. Then repeat. The patches scrubbed bare by Lilya over the years will not accept the stain, no matter what I do. After the second coat, I wait again. Lo and behold -the table is the exact same golden brown as it has always been. 

Canasta night
My mom and dad are both gone now. I don't know when my entire family will sit at my mother's table again. When they do, it will be ready.

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