Tuesday 25 Oct 2016

The Coffee Table
AJ Robinson

Many families have coffee tables in their living rooms. They keep books on these tables. The books are coffee table books. I remember Kramer, on Seinfeld. writing a book about coffee tables.

In my family, we had a coffee table. My mom picked it up at some used furniture store; it was six-sided and had three long poles that held the top above its triangular-shaped base. It was a claw-foot table, as its three legs formed, carved, in fact, into odd-shaped feet. Originally, it wasnt a coffee table; my mom said its legs were quite long, but she paid the owner of the store to cut it down. We thus had a nice coffee table.

One of our favorite family pictures is from in the spring of 1963. It shows me, as an infant, sitting in the center of the table and my four brothers seated around the table. Yeah, thats quite the memory.

As a kid, I used that table as a play place; its large flat surface was a desert or an open plain, and the base was a cave or mining operation. Id gotten a set of army soldiers for Christmas one year, and they often fought wars up the sides of that mountain. Then came the day that my oldest brother gave our dad a chess set; he'd picked up in Mexico. It was a beautiful set, black and white pieces, hand carved, and with a smooth finish. Well, it wasn't long before I was playing with that set. Of course, being a very young boy, I didn't know how to play chess.

Well, that was not about to stop me from finding a means of having fun with the pieces. Oh no, I had a fertile imagination, and a bit of a well, lets just say skewed sense of humor. I had the pieces fight out various wars on the top of that table, but these were no ordinary wars. Oh no, after one side was victorious, the king, queen and surviving advisers, bishop, rook and knight, of the losers were executed!

I got some string and tape from the junk drawer in the kitchen, tied little loops in short lengths of the string and then taped them to the edge of the table. After that, we hanged the losers. Yeah, as I said, this was a different sense of humor. I think if my mother had known, she would have been more upset about damage to the finish of the table than my little war games.

Over the years, we played many games on that table; most of them were quite harmless and normal. At the holidays, we put little decorations on it. When the house sold, the coffee table was one of the few pieces my mother took with her. I had to go out on my own and the table didn't come with me.

Years later, after I was married and my wife and I had a place of our own, my mom gave us that old table. It didn't really fit into our decor. My wife had seen that old picture. She knew how much the table meant to me. We added it to our living room. The first thing we did was take a picture of our infant daughter sitting on it. The two pictures are now framed and on our mantle.

I also told my wife about the tables other history. Apparently, she knew me better than I thought; she was not surprised at my war games and the aftermath.

Today, we still have the coffee table, and we've added our own history to it. Our dog Romeo chewed on the claw feet back when he was a puppy. Someday I hope to pass on that table to my daughter, and I have to wonder: what stories, what history will she add to it?

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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