From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

On the Table

The people who make a difference are not the ones with the credentials, but the ones with the concern.

Max Lucado

When our oldest child was just over a year old, my husband and I treated ourselves to our very first, brand-new, bought-because-we-loved-it piece of furniture. Like many young families, we lived with hand-me-downs and garage sale finds. In fact, we’d told the saleswoman we were “just looking,” and it was true—until we spotted it: the perfect coffee table.

Made of two-by-fours, the pine box weighed a ton. I was initially drawn to it because of the storage space inside. Space my year-old son couldn’t get at. Space to store my magazines so they wouldn’t get wrinkled or shredded or . . . chewed. Space for knickknacks that couldn’t stand up to the curious manipulations of a child who didn’t take “no” seriously.

I especially loved the lid. When opened, its surface remained horizontal—thanks to oddly convoluted arm hinges—and was the perfect height for dining when we sat on the couch. I envisioned romantic dinners after the baby was bedded down for the night.

I decided the coffee table would be the first piece in a room full of matching furniture. I pictured it in my mind: stylish, comfortable, a room for adults. A room where I could put things the way I wanted them . . . and they’d stay that way.

To save money, we purchased the unfinished version. After hours of sanding, staining, hand waxing and polishing, we were rewarded with a golden-hued, satin-smooth table. The magnificent focal point of our family room.

Because of the table’s pristine beauty, I made rules. Drinks must be on coasters. Feet were forbidden to rest upon it. Toys were not allowed to touch it.

These rules lasted for, oh, about a week. Until our son adopted the table as his hand rail so he could practice his walking skills. I bent the rules; a few fingerprints were worth the minutes of amusement this activity gave him.

But the day he stumbled and hit the corner of the table with his front teeth was the day everything changed. Fortunately, the baby was unscathed. Not so the table.

Two tiny teeth imprints marred its surface. My unblemished table was no more. Its golden-hued, satin-smooth finish was ruined. The dream of my perfect “someday” room was destroyed.

But the more I looked at the table, the more his cute imprints grew on me. We pointed them out to everyone who visited as a kind of conversation piece. And they did not exist alone for long.

Today, I can see where wooden toy trains derailed and crashed . . . again and again and again. Where T. rex went on tirades, and block towers teetered and fell. Where budding artists practiced their skills.

The table has endured feet (in and out of socks) and survived sippy-cup leaks and teething drool. It’s been the base for a dollhouse’s backyard, the checkout counter for a grocery store and the backdrop for teddy bear teas. It’s witnessed round after round of Dino Bingo and Go Fish.

My husband and I have only actually used it for romantic dinners twice, and, I must confess, the coffee table now doubles as my workout bench.

Its once pristine surface is pitted, pocked . . . and perfect.

It’s our family’s story, past, present and future. An heirloom-in-the-making. A real conversation piece.

Lizann Flatt

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