The High Holidays signify a chance to reflect on what was and consider what could be. In our family, the fall is often an opportunity to reflect on the swift passage of time. It also means more often than not, someone’s lease is up and a visit to the U-Haul rental facility is nigh.
On my way to Queens last Sunday, I had more than enough time for reflection as I waited for the ‘E’ and the ‘R’ trains. In a vague attempt at neutrality, I will say that both Blondilocks and Master/Master have moved both nationally and internationally, more times than I can count. This is the way the world turns for twenty-somethings, and I can’t complain because I did the same thing. I have also arrived at a time in life when my tired bakery bones can no longer carry heavy furniture up and down multiple flights of stairs. I am a beast of burden for bed linens and fluffy pillows, small, lightweight items, the occasional curtain rod or fragile lamp. My expertise lies in creative room décor suggestions and pinpointing quality coffee emporiums. Leaving the heavy lifting to others, I no longer worry for myself. I am however, beginning to worry about Mama Min’s kitchen table.
The blue formica topped expandable kitchen table with tapered wooden legs is growing weary. If that table could talk, it would probably date itself back to the 1940s, possibly earlier. Purchased by my grandmother, it was a fixture in the kitchen on Bay 25th Street, set against geranium splashed wallpaper. Jessie sat there to peel apples and make selections from the Book-of-the-Month Club. It is where my grandmother attached a hand-crank nut grinder for chopping walnuts. When my grandmother moved to Florida in the late 1960s, Jessie moved with us to the Garden State. The table accompanied us, demoted to the basement where it was piled high with laundry, items requiring ironing, odds and ends needing attention from my mother’s sewing machine. I cleared off the table in 1980, packing it up for its first trip to Manhattan. Since then, the table has moved countless times. For decades, it has remained a steadfast and loyal piece of furniture, providing additional seating when needed, or extra counter space in tight kitchens. I love that table.
It traveled up three flights of stairs to my first New York City apartment, where I promptly hid the blue formica beneath a no-iron tablecloth. With legs wrapped around a wobbly ladder back chair, I pored over the newly published Silver Palate Cookbook. The first time I contemplated chicken Marbella and Sour-Cream Apple Pie was at that table. Whisking away the tablecloth, it was the largest uninterrupted surface in the kitchen/living room/dining alcove of my studio apartment and where I chose to roll out pie crust. When I pulled the table apart, little drifts of flour would fall through the cracks onto the hideous burnt umber carpeting below.
The table reappeared in my next NYC apartment, wedged against a window facing identical brick buildings and a fire escape. If you stood at the table and craned your neck, you could just barely make out Central Park. Soon after, the table relocated to Philadelphia for twenty something years before moving back to NJ and then back to NYC with Blondilocks. In between the last apartment and the current apartment, the table hid out in our garage. As of last Sunday, its new home is in Queens.
Unlike most people, the table never complains. It never says a word about being demoted from dining room to the basement’s laundry room. It doesn’t complain about being stored in the garage for a year before being hauled out again, because someone was baking too many pies and needed additional counter space. Nor does it raise a fuss when it is dragged back into the garage, just waiting to be stripped of its wooden legs before being secured in the rear of a U-Haul truck. It utters not a word when it is carried up too many flights of stairs to someone’s new apartment, where it is upended while its legs are reattached.
I have no idea what my grandmother paid for that table. It was more functional than decorative, a place to sit and peel apples, pore over cookbooks, write letters, plan menus for the week. Time has taken its toll on the old girl. Her formica finish has faded, her rounded corners are nicked and worn. Two additional boards still tuck beneath, once held securely, now a little less so. For me, the table is priceless.
What I love about that table is that it’s not from Ikea. It’s not slick retro or hip vintage or easily found on Etsy. It’s old and worn, but still sturdy because it was made at a time when things were well made out of real wood and real laminate, and were not intended to be disposable. It served me in so many ways as a workspace and gathering place and most importantly, as a reminder of the women who once sat at that table. Rosh Hashanah and a New Year is as good a time as any to remember. L’shanah tovah. Enjoy your new/old table, Blondilocks.