Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Card Table

I love a card table. And I have lots of memories surrounding this simple, square, folding piece of furniture. As a child, I can remember the table being a "room" in one of our blanket forts. (I'm thinking that at one point we did have one of those fabric "houses" that covered the table.) Under the maze of tables, mismatched blankets, threadbare sheets (and the random broom handle to teepee any sags in the roof), we'd snuggle down with books, a flashlight, and a box of Bugles (which became divine long nails when placed on the tips of our fingers, causing us to channel Auntie Mame in voice and mannerism). 

I remember my grandparents setting up a card table in their living room if they were having a group of more than 4 to play bridge (otherwise, the kitchen table worked fine). On the weekends that they did play bridge and my sister and I would be spending the night, the sounds of adults laughing and the flutter of cards being shuffled was the sweetest lullaby a kid could ask for. Before going to sleep we'd ask Nana and Pap Pap if we could sneak out and grab a bite from their poo poo platter of snacks. We usually gravitated toward the oily, salty peanuts, like the kind they used to serve on airplanes. And when we'd say "aw, but now we have to brush our teeth again," Nana would smile, give us a loving pat on the butt, and tell us that "peanuts clean your teeth."

Growing up with a dad who was an art director in a Mad Men-esque ad agency in Baltimore was always the coolest. I remember the downtown office, the drafting tables for the artists and the typewriters for the copywriters, the lounges and conference rooms with modern furniture in jewel tones and whites, the production areas with all kinds of papers and adhesives, the risqué posters on common-area walls that made me blush but wanna look. Going in on a weekend when Daddy had to pick something up meant that my sister and I could push each other on wheeled secretarial chairs around the space, soaking in the Bestine and ashtray smells of creativity and success. Dad worked a lot on weekends, more often than not setting up shop in our basement family room, using the card table as his desk. He'd line up all his magic markers and work on TV storyboards for beer and indoor/outdoor carpet commercials. My sister and I would watch TV and play Barbies, setting up elaborate houses and scenes under and around the table. And Dad would always remind us not to knock into the legs; magic markers are not forgiving. To this day if I get a whiff of marker, I'm transported back to sitting under a card table trying to shove an exaggeratedly arched Barbie foot into a plastic go-go boot.

I have my own card table now. Its surface is misted in paint from being used as a makeshift spray paint booth in the driveway. It's seen its share of yard sales, spending many a sunny Saturday covered with a history of my life all for sale on the cheap. Although I have an enviable craft room with a giant 4' x 8' wooden table on wheels, the card table is often center stage in the living room where I can craft and watch TV. It's been lent out for baby showers and Christmas parties. It's well traveled, much loved, and showing the signs of having lived a very rich life.

One day, my four-legged friend will host the grandkids at Thanksgiving, playing the role of The Kids Table with much aplomb. It will never do a yard sale, ever again (this, a promise I make to myself after every yard sale, only to be broken when I forget the pain of the last one and look at how much crap I've amassed). And every time I set it on its side to pop the legs out in a rusty squeak, I'll be comforted by the memories that flood me and the memories yet to be made.

[Photos of markers borrowed from the Orchard Recruitment blog and Ana Reinert's blog Under the Desk.]

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