My arm was about to fall off. It was the second time I’d sanded this darned table in forty-eight hours. After a complete nightmare using the wrong kind of wood stain, my first crack at breathing new life into this old piece of furniture wasn’t going so well.
I stopped sanding for a minute and took a long look at the wood grain. Lined, weathered, nicked and uneven in places, the bare pine had an enduring, unrefined beauty that demanded at least a moment’s admiration. Admiration followed by reminiscing.
Oh, the memories made here.
I remember when this little, round table was shiny and new. It seemed perfect for a young couple just starting out. It begged to be bought when my husband and I stood staring at an enormous warehouse full of bulky, stacked furniture. How we ever got that thing into the back of our little, red Subaru, I will never know. We proudly took it home to our modest apartment.
Speaking of pride, I recall a pretty nasty fight we got into one night at that table when we had a friend over for dinner at our little apartment. We started to play Sequence, I think, and got into it over the rules of the game. I don’t remember much more than that, but I do remember our poor friend wanting to slink away, climb up a wall or both. He sure as heck didn’t want to be sitting at that table. Neither did we by the time that night was over.
Happier memories were made here, though, especially after our first baby was born. I can still see my husband feeding our six-month old daughter her first solids. She grimaced, then swallowed the first bite of mashed yams and looked up with her big, blue-turning-hazel, bewildered eyes. She broke into a sweet smile when she saw her daddy’s face. Her purple and white jumpers wore most of the mashed yams. The table wore the rest.
When I found out we were expecting twins, the distance between the table and my chair got wider with every trimester. It wasn’t comfortable, but we couldn’t have been happier.
When our son died, we just stopped sitting there all together for a while.
Later, I painted the table black. The whole black, white, damask look was “in.” Seemed like I was painting everything black just to achieve that style. Looking back now, I’m not so sure it wasn’t the outward expression of the inward darkness only bereaved parents can know.
Then, I decided to overhaul the kitchen and life in general and the table got shoved into a corner. I deglossed, sanded, primed, painted, resanded and repainted all the kitchen cabinets. We probably should have seen a marriage counselor before I started that project. I threw a plastic tablecloth over the table and the family endured countless fast food meals while I worked away.
That did not end well.
While I was busy overhauling the kitchen, our six year old had been busy too. She’d hidden three weeks’ worth of orange slices in the hollow of that table. She may not have liked oranges, but the fruit flies sure did. I will never forget the amount that buzzed out when we took the tablecloth off. It was like the honey bee clouds from the Winnie the Pooh books. I put bowls of vinegar with the dish soap all around the house hoping to entrap them while my husband calmly vacuumed those suckers right out of the air. I twitched and maybe even cussed. I still kind of do whenever I think about it.
It’s a miracle I stopped twitching long enough to look at that table, much less sand it. As I do, I see in-living-color memories, but the smooth and rough-hewn edges of a real marriage as well.
There are the unglamorous undersides of this table few will ever see and the polished beauty on the surface some may admire. There’s the sanding, painting and polishing as well as the knowledge that it will all be done again in time.
Maura Spiellmann said of woodworking, “Never will one piece be the same as another, even if the wood used is of the same variety, the final product will always be different. The tonality, marks of time and paints that were used on the wood when it was painted for the first or second time, is what gives personality to the furniture.”
The same could be said of marriage.
The original hue, the marks of time and the paint lends itself to a grander story only two can tell. Ours is full of beautiful imperfections and I love the patina of us.
For more marriage encouragement and specific ways you can pray for your relationship, visit Marriage Prayers.
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Ashleigh Slater, Founder & Managing Editor
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-- Arlene Pellicane, co-author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World and 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife
"Real life is not always pleasant. Every marriage experiences disappointments, misunderstandings, sickness and financial crisis. Ashleigh doesn’t camouflage the pain in her own marriage, and offers practical ideas on how to walk through the difficulties and find intimacy on the journey. If you are anything like me, I predict that as you read, you too will find yourself laughing, wiping tears, and saying 'Oh, yes.'"
-- Gary Chapman, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages
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