Dark to Light

There’s a picnic table in my sunroom, an old pine table notched together with wooden pegs, and two benches worn from over sixty years of sitting, first in my childhood kitchen, then more recently here, in my own house, all these years later, where I take my breakfast, to sit and munch and gaze at the out of doors, the backyard, and all its animal busyness that comes with early mornings.

This table, when I was eight, was rough, unfinished, the center of our kitchen. We sat here, my father and I on one bench, my mother and my sister on the other, for all our meals.

This table, when I was almost nine, was where I would go in the evenings, after my mother had cleared the plates and washed the dishes and gone upstairs to read or watch tv with my sister in tow. At eight, my father’s death had come as a blow, a veil covering me and all I knew in sudden darkness, as if I alone was the moon and, as his illness had progressed, the eclipse of me had slowly begun to cover my light, so much so that when he died the only light remaining was a tip, a moment, an everyday second when the light still shone.

This table, in the evenings, was my wailing wall, the one place where I would allow myself to cry, for my father, for my loss, for my pain. 

I refinished this table, over the days and weeks and months after my father died. Slowly, with sandpaper, then fine steel wool, then applying the stains that come in clear and light. The wood refined and shiny. Back then, my mother could hear my sobs, and my sister too, and they would come, to console and talk and cry with me. And my veil remained, and yet with the constancy of my mother and my sister at my side, the monotony of motion, of rubbing that wood,  I was able to find my tears, to unveil some of the light, to see through my pain. Over time. 

Today, this table is a cherished thing that holds my heart as surely as it did when I was young. 

Richmond, VA, USA.