Don’t put that in your mouth.
Don’t put that up your nose.
Don’t hit your brother.
Don’t wipe that on your sleeve.
Don’t eat that before your dinner.
Wear your coat.
All our lives, our parents and other well-meaning adults, tell us what we should and should not do. You get the picture. We expect, that after we reach grown-up status ourselves, we won’t have people giving us those directions/reminders anymore. At least, that’s what I thought. My husband and I went to the big, fancy furniture store in our town during our first year of marriage. We needed a table and chairs. After much searching, we settled on a round, oak table with 6 chairs and a leaf. You know the kind…it was the same one that everyone else settled on around that time. After we filled out the paper work and signed on the bottom line, we were allowed to have our new table and chairs delivered. As we were preparing to leave the big, fancy furniture store, our salesman, Frank, positioned himself between us and the front door. “Now folks,” he said, “what you bought today is REAL wood.” “You have to treat it like real wood.” He continued by adding, “You have to clean it and you have to take care of it.” “Don’t do anything on the table that might harm the wood.” There. He did it. We were transported back to 5 years old by our salesman. As we got in the car, we rolled our eyes and told each other we couldn’t believe what he had just said. How old did he think we were? He wasn’t our dad. How many years had we seen our parents taking care of the ‘real wood’ at our own houses? Good grief! The table, the chairs, and the leaf were delivered the following week. We proudly ate our dinner there every night and carefully cleaned up after ourselves. No sweaty glasses on the table which might leave a ring. My grandmother gave me several tablecloths to keep the crumbs and dust away. On Saturdays, I dutifully got out the Pledge and proceeded to clean and shine the real wood. Then we had our first baby. Our table took on a whole new life. It became the place to dump the cheerios, the juice, the spaghetti, the ketchup, you name it. Pretty soon with daughters number 2 and number 3 arriving, the table was the hair and make-up salon, the nail parlor, the art studio, and the thinking spot. After they started school, it became the homework desk, the place where frustrations were released over said homework, and the counseling center.
Most Saturdays, or as often as I could find the time, I still got out the Pledge and the rag and cleaned and shined. However, as you can already imagine, during this time, we had let Frank down. The table had glitter in the little carved swirls, there was paint in front of Abigail’s spot where she wanted to get a print of her dog’s paw, and there was a slight gouge where a cartwheel had landed badly. Yes, Frank, the ‘real wood’ was showing signs that people had not treated it like you had instructed.
I have had the table for 25 years this year and as I sit at it in my kitchen, in my quiet house, eating my dinner for one, I can relive every event, every tear, every project, and every secret, that is visible around my table. Frank, I spent months mocking you every time I cleaned that table. I even stuck my tongue out at you a time or two thinking how silly you were for telling me, the grown up, how to take care of my furniture. Frank, I spent a few years being sorry for letting things happen to the table that you wouldn’t approve of. Frank, I have spent over a decade being grateful that we treated that table like it was part of the family and not just some piece of ‘real wood’ that had to be pristinely taken care of.
This table now tells the story of my life. When my children gather around the table with me on rare occasions in their busy lives, we always come back to at least one story about something that we remember happening around it. This table, while not always treated like ‘real wood’, was happily treated as family.
Our own personal lives are much like my table. Many admonish us to live this way or that so that we are preserved and pristine and perfect. The truth is, we live lives that cause us scars and scrapes, dings and dents, glitter in the creases. When you truly live your life the way our heavenly Father created us to live, you show your wear and tear. I believe that God looks on us in our weathered state and smiles. He loves to see that we have put His creation to good use. So, friends, use your table, use your life. Make memories and milestones.