I diluted the drudgery of dusting by adding a dose of history. Reminders of the past crept into my head as I stroked the woodgrain in the oak table with faint tokens here and there of small accidents. More than one hundred years ago, this table was likely one of the first pieces of furniture bought by the young married couple who would become my grandparents.
The table left its first use for eating when my grandfather built his dogtrot farm house with a dining room that would accommodate a longer table for his six children. Relegated to the middle of the large kitchen, it became a work table. My grandmother and the three girl children used it for shelling peas, rolling out biscuits, draining and shaping the freshly churned butter, canning tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, and the many other tasks of farm women. Men had no obligations in this kitchen!
In the next generation as part of her inheritance, my mother kept the table because she liked the size. Years of heavy use, smoke from the wood stove, and accumulated kitchen grease had turned the table black. As Mama prepared to move into what would be her last home, she planned to use the table to eat in her own spacious kitchen. On a hot Mississippi morning, my sister Beth, the chief of restoration, decided it needed to be stripped and enlisted me as her lieutenant. After a day of applying equal parts of furniture stripper, elbow grease, and sweat, we were surprised to find the beautiful oak wood beneath the layers of gook.
We were not alone in our shock. On their first visit to Mama in her new digs, our two aunts admired her cozy kitchen table until one of them noticed something familiar. An argument ensued about whether it could indeed be the old black one from their mother’s kitchen. The design of the legs and trim won the argument.
Now it has found a home in my office, handy for spreading out research or maybe writing a blog. In one of his woodworking projects, Al transformed the no longer needed table leaf into the shelf above it to hold things that make me feel good. In its third generation, I write at the table, feeling the presence of those who are part of my history, hovering, inspiring, and encouraging me as they have done in the past.
Dusting is never delightful, but the drudgery has been tempered with a dose of history.