Do you have any possessions that connect you to times in your past?
My end tables and coffee table came from a used furniture store just after I graduated from college and got my first apartment. A matched set in the fussy Colonial Revival style, they were inexpensive when they were manufactured, which was probably during the 1940s. They were well used by the time I got them. They weren’t my style, but they cost just $50.
I figured that I’d replace them soon enough with nice, new furniture, but fortunes never allowed. Time and, eventually, two small children were not kind to the tables. I had not seen the tables for two years when I got them back after my divorce was final. The coffee table was so badly damaged that I threw it away. The end tables were missing some trim and the legs were a little chewed up. But they were serviceable and I was broke after buying my new house, so I put them in my family room.
Money isn’t so tight anymore. Recently I bought new end tables and a matching coffee table. I ordered them from Target.com and assembled them myself, so they’re not fine furniture. But they’re square and strong, which is much more my style. I was so pleased when they took their spots in the family room.
My older son walked in. “Oh,” he said, disappointed. “I had hoped those were going into the living room instead.”
I asked him why, puzzled.
“I like the old tables. They’ve been around all my life. I hate to see them go.”
I understood immediately. My mind turned to the old family TV I made my parents save for me.
A 1966 RCA black-and-white console television, partially pictured above, served my childhood until 1977 when Dad finally, finally sprung for our first color set. The old set moved to our basement rec room where it served for a few more years until the picture went out. Dad kept meaning to have it fixed, but the money wasn’t there. Eventually we had gone for so long without it that the family didn’t miss it anymore.
Except that I did, a little. Soon Mom started pestering Dad to dispose of it. I insisted they hang onto it, because when I moved out in a few years I’d take it with me and have it repaired. It would serve again!
The tables and that TV were anchors in our lives, my son’s and mine. The TV was not special in and of itself. But it was a tie to my family and the home my parents made for us, and to some of the feelings of my childhood. I wanted to cling to those feelings by clinging to this object. My son, apparently, felt the same way about those banged-up tables.
Mom and Dad did save the old TV, and I moved it to my first apartment. One of my electrical-engineering buddies from college came out to try to fix it. A nearby electronics store kept a selection of new-old-stock vacuum tubes and a tube-testing machine. The crusty old guys who worked there were very amused to see two 21-year-old kids with a box full of tubes we’d pulled from the TV. We replaced several bad tubes and improved the picture situation slightly – we got a thin line across the screen where there had previously been nothing. But in the end, we couldn’t restore it. My buddy traced the problem to some power inverter thingamabob, or something, that he explained would be impossible to replace. This was long before eBay; I’m sure that such a doodad is available there right now. But back then this diagnosis meant the end of this TV.
I used it as a table for a couple more years but finally, reluctantly, left it at the curb on heavy trash day. I was so sad when I came home from work that night to find it gone. It was as though I had let go of a big part of something good from my past. The memories were still there, but they were somehow less tangible from then on.
And so I empathize with my son, who apparently is enough like me that he laments the loss of one of his life anchors.
I tried to explain to him is that those tables anchor me to a bad time in my life, the time when his mother and I were falling apart. There were too many fights in the living room where we used these tables. Those sad memories overwhelm the good memory of bringing my bargain home and furnishing my little apartment with them. They served well but I’m glad they’re gone.
Things are just things, but it took me most of my life to learn that. Read that story.