I wrote this in 2001. I found it tonight… There are things I’ve written that I look back on and go, “Oh Val… you thought you knew so much.” I was happy to read this tonight and be reminded of something that I need to remember again.
I remember the undersides of tables. I used to sit under our kitchen table for long periods of time, no doubt spinning fine tales of a wild imagination. Sadly, I’ve lost the memory or the worlds I explored with my creative mind as transport, but I haven’t forgotten those table legs.
Have you ever considered why we loved being under tables when we were younger? (perhaps I am the only one who did love being under tables.) Maybe it was the security that a place so small and cozy could offer. Maybe, it was the privacy tables afforded. My guess, however, is that we retreated under tables because they were a place all our own as small people. Those humans of a larger size might condescend to enter our sacred territory once in a very long while, but for the most part, the space under tables can be inhabited only by those of very small size. I had the authority in my worlds under tables. And they could be transformed into incomparably amazing places.
I was in awe of the legs of our kitchen table. There were interesting colors stained into the wood and burbles of funny round rings all the way down to the floor. I can remember the feeling of running my hands down those table legs. They were smooth and cool and bumpy. I’m told that when I was two or three, I spent an unusually long amount of time under that table one evening, and at supper my parents discovered that it was suddenly wobbly. Upon closer inspection they noticed that the screws holding it together were strewn all over the floor. I guess I got a little carried away with the discovery that screws can come out! Other tables were fascinating to me as well. My grandmother’s table had vertical wooden bars going all across the front. This table, of course, turned into a jail and a zoo on several occasions. And, the end tables in our living room had these funny nut/bolt contraptions that looked to me like loud speakers. The ends of the tables were smooth and round, and the legs were square with funny indentations carved into them. I can remember the feel of the textures under my fingers.
We still have the end tables. I’m tempted to go see if they feel the same way.
I’m sitting here remembering how very much I enjoyed the undersides of those tables. How the little details of them are significant memories from my childhood. When I started remembering tables, other details of childhood pleasures came to mind: the texture of the upholstery on our old couch–all the tiny squares made from little threads woven together. I remember the old water pump in my grandmother’s front yard, and the funny rocks in the cement base that it stood upon. And how I reveled in sliding down steps on my rear end! Who needs fancy amusement park rides when you have basement steps?!
In THE RAGAMUFFIN GOSPEL, Brennan Manning tells about a man named Abraham Joseph Heschel whose remark before dying was this, “Never once did I ask God for success or wisdom or power of fame. I asked for wonder, and he gave it to me.” Later Brennan says, “Our world is saturated with grace, and the lurking presence of God is revealed not only in spirit but in matter–in a deer leaping across a meadow, in the flight of an eagle, in fire and water, in a rainbow after a summer storm, in a gentle doe streaking through a forest, in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, in a child licking an ice cream cone, in a woman with windblown hair. God intended for us to discover his loving presence in the world around us.” I would submit that this loving presence and saturation of grace can be found in the undersides of tables as well.
I could ask you now: What were your ‘table legs’ when you were younger? But I think a more important question would be: What are your ‘table legs’ now? What small things do you take pleasure in as you go throughout your days? We reminisce about the wonder we had as children, but we have no excuse not to have the same wonder now. What small things caused you to sigh deeply and let your imagination run wild with today?
“I asked God for wonder, and he gave it to me.” May my prayer be the same.