What am I really? Just a laminated board with four metal legs. Hanging out in a dusty box stuffed between other dusty boxes awaiting my future. Kmart is hardly the exciting home, but this is where I am for now. I wait. I hear someone, “How much is that one? 99 dollars! It looks fine, dark top, black legs, oh, mission style!” The next thing I know I am being jostled, shoved, pushed, pulled into a car. More squished than I ever was in the store!
I am pulled into an apartment, put together, angrily at times. “The instructions said it would only take an hour. It’s been three! Where are those screws? This picture makes no sense!” At last, I am whole for the first time in my life. I live in a small apartment, I can see everything! I am right by the window, nearly the only window in the place, but I am home!
Meals follow: macaroni and cheese, hamburger helper, top ramen. She is proud of her cooking skills. Not high quality, but oh, those two are happy. And they make me happy. I listen to them tell stories of their day, crying, laughing, living life. I enjoy this space. I am a surface to finish homework on, to read books on, to watch a tiny tv on. It is a bit cold by the door. Sometimes snow gets on me when the door is opened. Sometimes, the wind chills me to the core, but the inside is mostly warm and cozy.
And I enjoy the homes that come, six actually, each one brings new views. Some without windows, some with, some old and some new, some with laminate floors, some with carpet. Friends come over and eat with them. Crafts, first attempts at bread making. The people grow and the people change, but my purpose remains the same.
One afternoon, I am sitting by the front door in the apartment called “cave apartment”. I hear a crying, then a new object is placed on me. A baby carrier. She reaches in, picks up the baby, snuggles her close, whispering, “shh, shh”. I watch the baby grow. She is sweet, red haired and chubby. People come over, “She is the most beautiful baby we have ever seen.” The baby first sits by me in a chair, then sits in a chair attached to me. She bangs, she makes dents in my new surface. She spills milk, she smooshes goo into me. In the coming years, she scribbles on me, paints on me, squishes play do into me. I enjoy it. I am not as shiny and new as I once was, but I am loved. I am needed!
A new place. Older carpet, older kitchen, no window, only a furnace to watch. Another baby carrier. This time a boy. A dark haired boy who cries nonstop, but he grows. He grows until he is sitting in the attached chair and the girls sits in my chair. The girl refuses to eat anything except macaroni and apples and juice. Crying, tantrums, hitting, time out. The boy, on the other hand, eats non-stop. He loves every meal. He loves food period! He makes a mess. They fight, they laugh, they talk. The meals have changed, no more Hamburger Helper. Macaroni only happens at lunch. They have changed to pasta meals, spaghetti sauce, hamburgers, stir fry. Better caliber. I don’t mind the spills as much. Now I have 2 scribblers, painters, play-doers. I have scuff marks, nail polish, paint. Some that come out after scrubbing, some that don’t come out at all. Most of the time, I am grimy. Hard to keep up with 20 sticky fingers.
Third baby, third baby carrier. A new home, my first real home! I have a wonderful view, a window on either side, wood floors beneath me. A chandelier overhead. I even have a picture to look at. It has gotten louder now. It seems the only quiet time is at night. The loudness is part of life now though and I am ok with it. The new dark haired baby loves food even more than the boy did! And boy, is she messy. Messier than either of the other two combined! She goops food in her hair, rubs it into my chairs, on my legs, underneath. I am a mess, a happy mess. The food is homemade: bread, chicken meals, brownies, rice dishes. A long way from ramen and Hamburger Helper.
Sometimes the two order late night Chinese or pizza for a date night at home. The only peace they get during the day. Quietly, not to wake the children. We don’t want to share this tonight! Late night brownies and late night treats. I hear secrets. I hear news. I hear worries and fears and life is full.
The children talk more, “What’s your favorite part of the day?” is the new game. The answers, “pet store”, “coloring”, “school”, “cuddling with you”, “eating this delicious dinner”. The kids say prayers now and they are sweet and funny at times. The older girl eats now! She tries new things. She still loves bread but will try new things without too much persuasion. The boy loves hot dogs, pickles, ketchup. He is a joker. The little girl sits in my chair, independent since she was young and would never sit in the booster. She won’t eat much now except crackers and cheese and mostly she throws those on the floor. Her favorite activity is jumping and climbing on me, laughing the whole time. The older two are happy still, tired and happy and busy. Life is good. I hear news of another baby. “A baby brother!” the little boy hopes.
One day, I hear him say, “We need a new table. We’ve outgrown this one.” She says, “We could still make it work.” But not really. I only have four chairs and someone is sitting in a computer chair, which usually leads to fights over who gets to sit there. “Ok”, she sighs, “I will look on craigslist, but I want to keep this table. We’ve had it for 10 years. I can make something out of it.” He shakes his head with a smile. He hasn’t liked me for awhile. Calls me an eyesore. And maybe I am. The mission style is done. The rustic weathered wood look is in and well, laminate doesn’t weather well.
After six months, I am abruptly moved out back. I have never lived outside but I don’t mind it too much. The fresh air and green grass is good for me. But for days I sit outside, rain or shine, neglected and ignored. Nobody to talk to, nobody to listen to. I can look inside the window and see the new table sitting in my place. Dark wood, knots throughout, six padded chairs. Happy faces.
But one day, the sun shines, the paints come out. They pour it in on me. They wipe it in their hair. They call themselves, “dragons”. The mother is not happy but then she laughs and takes pictures and I am in them. They eat on me when the weather is nice. They talk about how great it is to have a table outside. They do homework on me, this time for elementary school and preschool. They do crafts and have snacks. She paints my black legs white. She has a goal to paint my wood sky blue but the heat and the growing baby keep her inside. “Soon”, she says, “before the baby comes.”
. I think of my former life squished in a box with other tables. Dusty and looked over. Who knows how long I stayed there? And who knows where those other tables went to? But I know where I am and I am grateful. I have had a journey like no other and now my purpose is to relax on the back porch. To watch kids playing, water fights, thunder storms. My life is still this growing family. Seven houses, endless messes, endless conversations and still more to come.