The Table has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
When I was a child, it was my fortress; I crawled under it, learning every crack and crevice from the underside. It seemed massive from my little girl perspective. Larger than life.
The Table held a revered position in the household. It was old; older than all of us put together - and that even included my dad. It was old, but it was perfect. From the intricately-carved claw feet to the highly-polished, pristine ebony top with grooved edge.
But all that wasn't readily evident, because the Table was securely and doubly protected with padding and a table cloth. Always. My mom - who took great pride and joy in preserving the perfection of the table - wasn't taking any chances, especially not one that could result in a scratch.
When my parents relocated to a new home they no longer had space for the Table. I did. So I became its proud owner. I used a cover for awhile (just one, not two), but concealing the beauty of the flawless ebony wood seemed wrong, somehow - hiding it meant no one could appreciate and enjoy it.
I took the cover off. Over the years, my family has used the table for numerous activities. It was our homework station. Big enough to spread out large assignments - some of which involved glue drips from posterboard to table. We've completed craft projects with fabric paint and permanent markers. We colored eggs at the table using dyes of various colors.
We've had many family game nights at the table. Sometimes snacks or a drink got spilled on the wood. I use my sewing machine at the table. Once or twice the machine has slid unexpectedly and caused a scratch (or two).
Perhaps the most egregious of all, for awhile we used the table for ping pong. It's about the right size and the net attached nicely to the table edges - leaving just the tiniest of marks when we removed it.
Recently we had a big meal at the table and needed to pull out the extra leaves, which extend to make our large table into an enormous one. The leaves haven't been used for homework, game night, sewing, crafts or ping pong. They've been protected from the elements and the rigors of my family within the undercarriage of the table - where I used to play. And they remain as pristine as the table used to be - before we used it.
The contrast between the table that is now and the leaves that were then was significant - and symbolic. Some would look at the table and conclude that we wrecked it. I don't believe that's true.
The table (no longer uppercase) may not have the extrinsic value it had when it was untouched and unscratched. But its intrinsic worth has increased exponentially. When the table was the Table, it was beautiful but nothing more. Each scratch and glue drip and watermark signifies family memories made around a piece of furniture that has earned its place in our dining room.
Some day we may have to refinish it to bring it back to its pristine stature, but that's okay. Because I bet my kids will remember our times around the table with a fondness that would have been hard to attain if perfection meant more to us than family. I think even my mom would agree.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don't miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.