birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

The Magical Art of Tidying Up

It seemed like a small thing at the time—like this was the way things should go. I gave my stepson from my first marriage the dining room table that was from his dad and mom’s life together. I always thought of the table as his someday and that I was just taking care of it in the meantime.

When I re-married, my husband and I suddenly had a lot of tables. He had furniture from his first marriage and from his family and so did I. The dining room table I had been using for thirty years seemed like the obvious table to go. It really didn’t fit into our dining room very well. Why not pass it on, a friend suggested? Not because it wasn’t loved, but because it had been. It had served our family well, and now it was time to serve another.

So I gave my stepson the table and was blindsided by the emotions that followed. I almost instantly regretted giving the table away. What was I thinking? I loved that table. Then I got angry with myself. I was mourning a material object? I knew better. Hadn’t I gotten a life lesson about the unimportance of money and stuff?

I continued to wrestle with my emotions about giving up the table until I finally realized what the table symbolized. It was the years of dinner parties, Thanksgiving dinners, and various celebrations from a different life when I was a different wife. It wasn’t the table as much as the times spent at it and around it.

I have to admit I still get wistful about the table. And I have to remind myself that it’s not about the table and that’s no small thing.

The Least of These