“Reflections on a Table,” Jan. 14, 2020

How many times in my life have I scratched this table? How many times will I be lucky enough to get to do it again? Those questions crossed my mind tonight as I cleaned up the mess we’d made at dinner.

This mess was even messier than our usual. There were just the two of us, my husband and I, cracking fresh crab and eating it with our fingers.

Earlier today he went to walk with his sister, one of his favorite things to do with one of his favorite people at one of his favorite places, Garland Ranch Regional Park, near our home in Carmel Valley, Calif.

The park includes nearly 3,500 acres of rugged land and steep trails at the northern edge of the Santa Lucia Mountains.

I wish you could see it.

I’ve seen it myself numerous times over the years, especially when my three children were growing up. We’d often picnic there on Sundays after church, hiking the trails, then heading home happy and exhausted.

I love the park’s main rule for visiting: “Take only memories and leave only footprints.” It applies equally well, I think, as a rule for the road of life.

These days, I don’t hike quite as happily as I once did, so today I begged off to work, while my husband and his sister walked and talked.

On his way home, my husband, bless him, stopped at a fish market to pick up a couple of fresh Monterey Bay crabs, all cleaned, cooked and cracked.

I steamed some broccoli, sliced two lemons from a bush that was a housewarming gift from friends, and we were ready to feast on one of the world’s finest and easiest meals.

After dinner, he hauled the shells down to the street for trash pick-up day tomorrow. And I loaded the dishwasher and wiped down that table.

Have you ever taken something for granted — things like people and health and dining room tables — until they suddenly grab you by your collar and say, hey, remember me?

That happened to me tonight. I was wiping the table, polishing it back to a shine, trying to rub out a few of the scratches, when suddenly I saw my face reflected on its surface and recalled a lifetime of memories.

I’ve been cleaning that table, and accidentally scratching it, most of my adult life. It’s 6 ft. long, 3 ft. wide, and built of dark-stained pine from the mountains where I was born.

I bought it with my late husband when we were first married and had it shipped from North Carolina, to California.

From the start, just looking at it made me feel at home. It came with two ladder-back chairs that sit at either end, and two heavy benches that fit along the sides for children and guests.

In addition to serving as a dining table, it has also been a place for homework and projects, potlucks and parties and, oh, so many celebrations.

We refinished it several times over the years. But if you look closely, you can still see a few places where my kids pressed too hard with their pencils.

Now, when our grandkids come to dinner, I love pointing out to them where their parents left their marks long ago.

The next time my husband’s sister (who is also one of my favorite people) and her family are in town, I hope we can all hike in Garland Park together, then come back to our house to feast on crab (or whatever’s in season) on that table. I would like that a lot.

It’s not a very big table, but it still has room for all sorts of new memories. Just looking at it still makes me feel at home.

Someday, when I move on from this life to the next, I’ll pass it along to one of my children … or maybe to one of my grandchildren.

I’ll be taking nothing with me but memories, and leaving behind only footprints — and a lot of scratches on an old pine table.

Comments

  1. G B says:

    I remember that table. Weird that I would. Its in a photo I have from last century…Haha. I remember eating Peanut – or – Peanut Butter soup at the table. And trying not to lean back while on the bench. Thanks for the 50 year old memory rekindling. My best to you as always, Dear #2S

  2. Dominic Murgido says:

    Reflections on a table is kind of like reflections on life. Thank you for sharing.

    Dom Murgido

  3. Thanks for the table memories, Sharon. Continued blessings.

  4. Steve K. says:

    I love your columns Sharon. Heck, my Wife & I only live about 2 hrs. from your area, and have stayed in the Monterey or Carmel area often, but the weather is too cool, cold for us, now preferring Pismo Beach, although that is a much farther drive. However this 70 yr. old wonders if his body could still make that hike on those trails you speak of :-). By the way, my Wife at one time, had bought herself a very nice dining table, china hutch, etc. The table looked real nice until the GrandKids managed to get scratches in it, drawing on paper or whatever. The scratches do bother this slightly OCD person, LOL, but not my Wife (She claims).

  5. Sheila says:

    Just today I was looking at my family room end tables & thinking of replacing them. One of them has scratches from my teething grandson. Another shows the scars from my 4 grandsons using the table to launch their matchbox cars across the room! The grandchildren are all teenagers now & are more careful. The tables are beautiful but worn with memories of the past. I might need to remind those teens where the marks came from. Maybe I don’t need new tables after all! Thanks for making me think about it.

  6. Kate Sciacca says:

    Oh my goodness! Our pine table is 7ft long with benches and chairs…. not as old as yours but just as loved 🙂. Bought it after #5 was born…. 1990…. the old round one only sat eight and with my folks living with us it wasn’t quite enough…. but God has a sense of humor… it held 10 comfortably so number six came along…. then my dad died and number seven was born…. and mama died and number eight….yep, He kept that table filled🙂.

  7. shashi says:

    Thank you Sharon . It has been long time, I did not comment though I read a few times, sweet memories posted by me. Love you so much!!

  8. Jeannette Buck says:

    As always, you speak to my heart and my memories and my mind. As different as we certainly are, we seem to have so much in common. Thank you for another wonderful read.

  9. Betty McNall says:

    As of today I will only be reading your column on my FB page as we cancelled our paper! But that’s ok as long as I can read you here! Your make my day do might save and read more that once! We also have a large table that goes from a 45” round to A 90” with 3 leaves and family enjoyed many a dinner and also for several years used as a cutting table for many a 4h sewer as well as My daughters and myself! Also if you look under my cat used legs up high “not with my permission “!!

  10. Patti Peters says:

    Another precious memory from you Sharon. My table, a priceless memory, is from my childhood. I remember like yesterday when my Dad carried it into the house 65 years ago. I will never let it go…and there are still crayon marks on the underside from me that I look at occasionally.

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