Let me tell you about our coffee table…

Sometimes when I’m in a place like Smitty’s Furniture, I just want to start all over again. The room groupings, the decor accents, it all seems so… well… nifty! Know what I mean?

Then I come home and sit in the family room and put my feet up on the coffee table and it feels like… well… not nifty! It feels like… home.

I think it’s because of the history.

Over our nearly 40-years of married life, we have accumulated an eclectic selection of household items. They’ve attached themselves to us, and we to them. My grandparents 1920 Mission dining room furniture is in our dining room, complete with ice box hoosier which would have been pretty fancy in 1920.

We have a beautiful old mahoghany pigeon-hole secretary desk which we love… a wedding gift from my college landlady whom I grew to cherish.

We bought our Mission dresser from Barrie Second Hand Store–remember that incredible block of treasures?–from Dave Hill when we moved to Barrie in 1971. We scraped and refinished and treasure it still.

Perhaps, though, the greatest treasure is the one we put our feet on.

The coffee table.

Why? Well, back in the late 60’s when my first husband (still husband) and I were dating, he introduced me to his family farm. Two hundred acres of pasture and mixed grain, 500 producing chickens, 35 milking holsteins, and an old farmhouse. His mother was a fabulous cook and a fastidious housekeeper. I marvelled that every single item that came out of her wringer washing machine went underneath her iron. In the winter, she hung the clothes on lines in the basement, and ironed them to feel-
good, smell-good condition when they were dry.

And down in this damp, soggy basement was the worktable. It sat beside the washing machine. It leaned, actually, because the wet floor had rotted its legs and it teetered quite a bit. She used it to dump wet clothes on before they went through the wringer. It held potting soil and pots, old tools, an assortment of basement-type things.

Fast forward to 1975 when the family farm was portioned up and sold off. The auctioneer was getting good value for the holsteins and the auctioneer’s assistants were lugging things from the house to the yard for bidding purposes.

The basement stuff was deemed junk and the table was carted off to the burning pile at the side of the yard. Now this was a bitter sweet kind of day for my husband and his family. The sale meant his parents could retire; but the cows had been carefully bred and my father-in-law was known for his good stock. One by one, items were secured and paid for.

I wanted that table. I ventured out to the yard beside the barn and looked it over. Its legs were really in rough condition. And, to look at it, it was pretty bleak. Rough. And it was a huge table! a real harvest table, it measured six feet by almost three feet… it would take a pretty big room to accommodate this table. We sure couldn’t put it on our 1964 Beetle. I honestly don’t remember how we got it to Barrie, but the poor thing came home with us. We were renting a small apartment, so it sat upright in the garage. It moved to a different garage when we bought our first house and it wasn’t til we started our family that the table found a use. I cut down the legs and moved it in to the basement so our two-year old could use his woodworking tools on it. No kidding! Sawing, hammering, learning about his drill… the table could take it.

A few years later (say 27) we moved to our present house. This house is a treasure for two reasons. First reason is that it was built by my former employer back in my newspaper days… so it has great energy. Second reason is that the family room is just that–roomy–and called for a huge coffee table.

And guess what? With lots of elbow grease, the years and years of paint came off, sanding brought up the sheen, a coat or two of eurathane, blue paint for the sides and legs… it’s a showpiece, really.

So when we sit in the family room to light a fire or try to figure out how to start a DVD, (another column there), or read Christmas cards, or just be a family… there sits our monument from the past. The table that our cherished Vecmama worked on for so many years, the table that our kids jumped on, hammered on, coloured and painted on for so long, the table that transformed itself into an important part of our todays.

It was the table that nobody wanted.

And that’s why when I’m in those fancy furniture stores and I begin to think about ‘new’, it doesn’t last long. I just go home to the memories and the sentiment and it feels like a better fit!