Ode to a Table

A large kitchen in your average New York apartment is like a mythical beast. You may muse about their existence from time to time, but chances run high that they aren’t real things. Many kitchens in one-bedroom apartments here are little more than the wall of a non-kitchen room that happens to have some appliances leaning against it. Your living room is usually reserved first for a couch, and space permitting, a table or closet (closets are a whole other thing).

Having a dining table in New York is a luxury. My first apartment here was big enough to hold a small table which I could sit at comfortably, and another person could join me at uncomfortably. A few years later, I moved to another apartment that was the same size, but differently laid out. This apartment had a huge kitchen with space for many people to occupy simultaneously.

This new kitchen of mine took up nearly a third of the apartment’s footage and was big enough for a proper table. I knew right off I wanted a big farm table — something solid and uncomplicated.

After looking around for a long time trying to find the right balance of form vs price, I became discouraged because big tables are pretty expensive everywhere (who knew?), and settled on one I found on eBay. I say “settled” because I thought “I’ll get this table now, but then buy a really nice one when I can afford it.”

The table was made of unfinished pine from an Amish furniture maker in Pennsylvania and an irregular castoff he was selling at a discount. I couldn’t detect any problematic irregularities from the pictures — these tables should probably have some rough edges anyway—so I bought it.

For the first year I owned the table, I casually regarded it as a thing I planned to replace, so I didn’t put much work into it. It’s a hulk of a thing, with corners that come justthisclose to achieving right angles. I tried sanding its rough legs a few times and was rewarded with some of the biggest splinters I’ve ever encountered in my life. I didn’t take the table makers’ advice to oil the wood, so on cool nights I was sometimes woken by terrifyingly loud pops that I later discovered were the table boards splitting.

I chalked all that up to the table having some character. Later my partner Megan moved in, who sensibly got us to wax and oil the table. Gone were the pale boards and in their place stood a downright healthy looking table, albeit prematurely weathered due to negligence.

We have guests over for a meal most every week, and every week we’d gather around that table. Sometimes the gatherings are jovial events that stretch long into the night. Sometimes they are somber times shared over quiet dinners. Amid broken glasses, spilled drinks, dirt, and countless food items, that stubborn table has stood strong.

I used to think about the table I would get to replace this one. I would often tell people it was a temporary occupant. But now I look at that table and all I can see are the times we’ve spent gathered around it. All the meals and wine, the conversations and laughter, the tears and embraces. This table is full of memories and times spent together. It’s imbued with so much personal history that it’s a part of the family now. I don’t see its surface faults anymore, I just see myself and my loved ones. I wouldn’t trade this table for anything now.

This piece originally appeared on The Pastry Box Project.