8/17/17 10:58 am
Today I am writing a blog about a table. Not just any table. I’m writing about the ugly, behemoth, bane-of-my-existence table that my parents owned for most of my life and through the end of theirs. They bought it when I was about 5. I know this because I remember going furniture shopping with them when they bought it for the new house they were building. We moved into the house the summer before I started kindergarten, so it that would be the summer of 1971. I turned 5 the end of that August.
1971. Richard Nixon was president. VietNam was in full force. Sonny and Cher were not only still together, they even had their own TV show that I was allowed to watch. That was a long time ago. For me and the table.
The first thing I hated about the table is it’s very dark-colored stain. I remember looking at in the furniture store and almost being afraid of it because it was so big and so dark. It made me feel small and it looked like it should have been in some old, deserted, scary house, not our brand new one we were moving into. My parents didn’t agree and the table came home with us.
The second thing I hated was how heavy the chairs were. As a 5-year-old, I couldn’t lift up and move the chairs, they were so heavy. I’d have to scrunch under and around the table to crawl up into the chair, or someone would have to pull a chair out for me and then maneuver it back in toward the table once I was on it. I’m independent. I always have been. I like to do things myself. So I always opted for the scrunch-in technique whenever I could get away with it.
Eventually, as I grew older and bigger, I could move the chairs on my own but it was never easy. Since my mother always had the damn table and chairs on carpeting, (shag, of course) these chairs with the weight equivalent to a small calf, needed to be lifted to be moved. Sliding was never an option. Even the adults who sat in the chair had to sort of bunny-hop their way back toward the table once the sat in them. Gracefully scooting the chair to or from the table was never an option with this behemoth of a set.
Not only were the chairs heavy beyond belief, they had dark, padded, plastic seats that were supposed to look like leather. However, they never did look like leather. They weren’t soft. They were a hard, unyielding substance that felt more like a cheap diner booth material than a dining room chair material. To make it worse, my mother made me use Pledge Lemon spray wax to shine them up every week when we cleaned.
The addition of the spray wax caused problems of it’s own. Number 1: a slippery seat is harder crawl up on to. Number 2: a slippery seat makes noises when you move. Fart noises. When crawling up onto a chair a fair amount of positioning is needed to situate yourself once you’re up there. This makes the fart noises unavoidable, even during holiday meals with extended family (which is the only time the table was used for the first 13 years of it’s life.)
Occasionally, during dinner an adult would be so foolish as to re-positioned their weight on the chairs, and they, too, were the recipient of the fart-noise. I wonder if we were known for the fart-noise chairs within the extended family. Maybe that’s why we didn’t host very many holiday meals. Maybe my mother made me wax the chair seats for that very reason. She never did care much for entertaining.
I’ll have to give that some thought.
The week after I graduated high school in June of 1984, my parents and I moved into another new house and this is where the bane-of-my-existence came into its own. It was promoted from the once-in-awhile for special occasions dining room table to the everyday kitchen table.
The new house was an open concept house, very popular in the 1980’s, and there was plenty of dining room space to house the behemoth. And since there wasn’t a wall to distinguish the dining room from the family room, the chairs could spread out throughout the house free from the confines of their traditional designated room. Which they did.
Since there were only three of us, we clearly did not need a massive table and chairs that could seat 8. My mom put four chairs around the table and scattered the rest of the stray chairs throughout the house. Just in case someone needed an uncomfortable, squeaky chair to sit in.
Notice the chair to left of the table in this picture. It’s a stray. There’s another stray that you can’t see to the left of the recliner.
Here’s yet another stray used as a desk chair.
As you may have noticed in the top picture, eventually my mother gave up on waxing the fake leather. She moved on to attaching seat cushions on top of the fake leather instead. My mom bought the ones with ties that went around the back spokes of the chairs.
The seat cushions looked prettier than the ugly fake leather, however, seat cushions that are put on top of slippery plastic have their own set of problems. Especially seat cushions that are only attached by two ties at the back of the cushion. They will slip and pull every time you sit down. You need to aim squarely in the middle of the cushion or the cushion and a butt cheek will half slide off the chair. No one of my family has ever been what you would call thin, and, frankly, there wasn’t a chair tie to be found that could withstand the pressure of an ample-sized derriere against the sliding cushion on a plastic seat that’s been waxed for 13 years.
My mother diligently tried sewing the seat ties back on for a year or two. But let’s face it. If a factory sewn seat tie couldn’t stand up to Tieffenbach butts, a hand-sewn job by my mother never had a prayer. Eventually she gave up, and the seat ties hung limp and useless on the back of the chairs while the seat cushions sat willy-nilly on the fake leather seat. Major slippage occurred anytime anyone sat down. After while, we gave up and the seat cushions became a decorative accessory that we moved and replaced the before and after each meal. Kind of like having throw pillows on the bed. Pretty, but not useful.
I suggested to my parent’s that they get a new table. With chairs that didn’t require wrenching your back to move. Not a chance. The set was perfectly fine, they said, even if some of the chairs legs were coming loose and did wobble side to side. The wobbly chairs got swapped with the prior stray chairs and life continued as before.
Eventually, the seat cushions with the rubbery dots on the bottom that grip the chairs without the need for seat ties were invented. My mom eagerly bought them and they worked much better than the seat tie cushion — as long as you were able to move the massive chair toward the table on thick carpeting while simultaneously holding on to your chair pad so it didn’t fall off the chair before you sat down. If you happened to sit down too far from the table, the pad added a little extra layer of complexity to bunny-hopping the chair to table. As did the now constantly wobbling table chairs.
I had some fun bringing home new boyfriends and watching them try to navigate the chair/rug/chair pad conundrum for the first time. At least the fart-noise problem was eliminated. The chair legs were getting so unreliable by this point, that my mother planned out where to seat the heaviest guest on the sturdiest chair. My father, having glued the legs as much as he could, was relegated to wrapping string around the bottom chair legs for added strength. Red string. On dark, ugly brown chair legs. At least the string matched the chair cushions.
As those of you who read my blog know, my mother passed away unexpectedly last month and my father has been gone for over six years. As an only child, this means the responsibility of disposing of the household goods and the house falls to me.
I’m not a keeper of memorabilia. I never have been. I marvel at those women who have gorgeous scrap books with ticket stubs and receipts from family trips. I’d like to have one of those, but I’m not that person. I hate clutter so I’m constantly cleaning my purse, wallet, and drawers tossing out stuff. Sometimes I toss out stuff I need. Like property tax checks from the bank. But that’s rare. Bottom line is I didn’t anticipate having any problems getting rid of stuff from my parents house.
I took the few items I wanted, like the hand-made wood carvings my dad did, and few cross stitch pieces my mom made. The most important thing I took out that house is sleeping next to my feet right now. I called in an estate sale place and told them to sell everything. Sell the dishes, the bedroom sets, the family room furniture, and for the love of God, get rid of the hideous, behemoth dining room set that I’ve hated for almost 46 years.
The estate sale guy was probably about 70, and he seemed impressed with the table and chairs. He used words like, “workmanship”, “sturdy” and the cliche’ “they don’t make them like this anymore”. Apparently he didn’t see the red string holding his chair together.
He priced the table and chairs at $225.00! I was amazed. Apparently, I don’t know what things are worth, I thought. I didn’t think anyone would take it for free and this guy thinks he can get $225.00 for it.
Day one of the estate sale. The table and chairs do not sell. That’s okay, Estate sale guy says. Day two everything is marked down to half price. Surely the table and chairs will sell for $114.50.
When I went into the house the weekend after the estate sale was over, the house was mostly empty. Just a few boxes here and there and the massive, ugly, too-dark table and chairs in the exact same spot where it’s been for the past 33 years.
I wasn’t surprised. Not one bit. The damn table is like a cock roach. It will never go away.
“The charity will take it,” Estate sale guy says.
Except the charity isn’t available on the day Estate sale guy promised. And I have showings to prep the house for. The house needs to be emptied. NOW. Everything has to go.
Monday, after many phone calls and a couple of threats, Estate sales guy’s team shows up with a truck and starts loading everything up. I’m assuming they will take the items to the charity instead of the charity picking them up, which is fine. I don’t mind that the table and chairs and the rest of the items didn’t sell, and I’m glad they’re going to some place where they can be of use to another family. I sleep well that night.
It’s Tuesday. The house is finally empty, cleaning can commence for the showings on Wednesday and all is well.
Estate sale guy’s team shows up to take a few last boxes out of the garage Tuesday morning while I’m there. They tell me it’s the last load that they’re taking to the dump. Not a charity as promised. The dump. There’s no reuse or recycling going on here. Everything they pulled out of the house that didn’t sell went to the dump.
Including the ugly, monstrously heavy, too-dark behemoth of a dining table, stray chairs in various stages of disrepair with fake leather seats and red chair pads with bumps on the bottom. At the dump.
The grief didn’t hit me until Wednesday. And I do mean grief. All out crying as if I’d lost a living, breathing soul, not some stupid, ugly table and chairs I’ve never liked. I did hate them, but their fate didn’t deserve to end up in the dump.
Grieving is a nebulous beast. You never really know what will beckon it forth. It can be something obvious, like a picture, or memory that’s triggered. Or it can be something stupid, like an old crappy table and chairs you’ve lived with for 46 years.
I try not to think of the table, discarded like trash. It still upsets me. And it upsets me that I’m upset over an inanimate object. It’s a vicious cycle.
I’m not sorry I that I didn’t take the table and chairs for myself even if I am sorry for it’s fate. Nor will I wax poetic about family meals and memories we shared around The Behemoth. Sure they happened, but in the end, it’s still just a piece of wood. And uncomfortable piece of wood that I never liked. My memories are tied to me, not to it.
I just wish it didn’t have to end up in the dump.
8/17/17 1:55 pm (I had an hour break in there to do a conference call but I still went over in time by close to an hour!)