On the porch, my grandmother's dining room table and chairs sit, waiting for pick up from Out of the Closet, a thrift store that raises money to support gay and lesbian causes. My spouse chose that destination. If we were characters in a novel, this detail would surely presage a plot point, depending on the kind of novel we were in. But I'm just hoping that they actually take it.
In 2003, my grandmother had to leave her house. It's amazing that she survived the incident that sent her to the continuing care facility: during the heat of the summer day, she went to take clothes off the line and had a heart attack. She lay there under the unmerciful sun until neighbors came to look for her in the evening after she didn't answer the "Are you O.K.?" phone calls that she and her friend made to each other in the morning and in the evening.
She had to leave her house, which meant that much of her furniture couldn't come with her. Although I was only interested in a few pieces, it cost the same to ship a little or to ship a lot, and so I took much of what she wasn't taking with her.
The dining room table expands to seat 3 on either side, and only when it's expanded do the chairs push all the way in--so either way, it takes up more room than I realized. It's the kind of design that has all sorts of places that catch dust, plus it's hard to dust. The top is easily scarred and marked. I have no idea how my grandmother kept it in such good condition--probably because she didn't use it often. Her dining room was so cramped that it was hard to use it at all.
I hope someone else finds it in the thrift store and loves it, but it's not the kind of thing that fits modern tastes. I am willing to let it go, but I hate the thought of it going to the dump.
We are in the sorting phase of the great flooring project. We're realizing how many things we've kept. My spouse has at least one box of papers that his mother kept--papers that relate to her grandfather, papers that aren't going to be interesting to other relatives, since they didn't know the man. It seems a shame to toss them--and yet, that's what will happen eventually.
I always knew this sobering reality, but here I am, chastened again by how little it all amounts to, in the end. A box of papers about a life--including a book of funeral guests, all unknown to us. It might matter to a historian some day, but it likely wouldn't. Our relatives were just ordinary folks--important to their immediate circles, but not changing the course of history, except in the ways that ordinary folks leading regular lives change the course of history.
I want to be more ruthless in sorting through my own papers, but it's likely too early to be that ruthless. I have no children who will be interested in the inner workings of my life or the outer trappings, but I still hope to have decades on this earth. Still, it's time to think about what I need for those decades: financial papers yes, dining room table no.
So good-bye, dining room table. May you find a home where people continue to gather around you to enjoy delicious food and fellowship.