Over the weekend I said goodbye to a table, one that had seen me through 14 years of writing, then editing, mothering and mess-making. How strange it was to have hung on to something for so many years and then, a furious need to get rid of. The post was made to Craigslist, and 24 hours later, it was gone.
It was a table with six chairs, sturdy and too big for our space. Never one to part with anything I held on way longer than I needed to. I made excuses: "But we need that table to entertain!" "What if I repurpose it?" What if, what if, what if.
Then, last week, I just saw a big piece of furniture in room that was too full of stuff.
I like what Gretchen Rubin writes about organizing: That a secret to happiness isn't getting "organized." It's getting rid of stuff.
Right before I let the table go, I plunked my laptop down and wrote some emails. I ran my hands over the imperfect surface, upon which I had written so many stories. I poured a drink, ran my hands over its pock-marked surface, and answered a knock on the door.
14 years. A lot of words. A lot of work. The ones that were once in a newspaper, and then in a magazine, and others that will only live in journal entries. Some live only in the minds of the friends who sat around the table.
"What will we become?" we asked, nervously, around this table. In our hearts, precious dreams of how we'd grow, served up with slices of brie and deep glasses of wine.
If this piece of wood could talk. (It would tell some stories.)
My mom and dad bought me that table. It was my second newspaper job. We'd all hoped it would stick, until a year into it I packed the table back of a rental van and drove back to Birmingham, Alabama. There was something there for me in that town, though I didn't quite know what.
First, seven years at the university, then five at the magazine. I'm still at the latter, and it doesn't leave me much time to take care of objects that don't fit.
I simply want to purge now.
As an editor, I've learned not to be married to any phrase, set of words, or stories. Or object. Like the creeky table you kept all those years because it fit in a space carved out in an odd-shaped room.
This table knew me when I was a baby writer, working dilligently on a job application for a job I am now so thankful to not have gotten. Table, saw me through long nights later, desperately trying to craft a turn of a phrase. Table, who held stacks of story notes.
But table also held stacks of bills I was too tired to sort through, piles of junk mail and small bits of plastic toys. It was the place I plunked my stuff down. Not many meals were eaten there (we have another table for that, though honestly, we rarely eat there either.)
Table had to go.
I was amazed by the swiftness of the transaction, in how 10 minutes someone handed over cash and lifted a table and six chairs away. I wanted to say, "Wait! I wrote that story on that table."
But it was already gone. The stories were already told. The people who took the table were not interested in that. It did not matter.
The table is gone and there is an empty space, one for a smaller table better suited for our needs.
Bye table. Bye, things that no longer serve.