Earlier in the summer, I had passed along to another couple the table that’s been in my family since I was oh I don’t know third grade? It was hard to let go of but didn’t fit in my space and was too much table for this single girl in 700 square feet. So history moved on. And there was a lack of table for five or six months.

The space I’m in is a “great room” layout. While great rooms work for houses on golf courses, they’re not “great” for apartments. If you want a dining room table it’s in your living room. Much like Phoebe on Friends when Rachel kept buying Pottery Barn and passing it off as nostalgic finds at flea markets, hashtag Apothecary table, I’m not big on mass-produced commercial cookie cutter surroundings. I don’t have people in my home to add the story so the pieces have to do it. They have to be the joy. So this can’t just be a drop leaf from Target.

Mom saw an ad for dinettes and none of us could remember the store. Just the street. So I drove to Madison and started hitting furniture spots. Actually drove past the antique store. Didn’t notice it. I’d stopped at the glam furniture spot next door. Everything was mirrored. Pass, thanks. Exited through the alley and saw the nondescript lot for Midway Antique Mall. Wandered to the front door, figured I’d poke my head in and leave. “I’m not really looking for an antique.”

I stepped inside just far enough to clear the black felt doormat, and found myself, well…”midway” between the past and present. More literally, between an orange bulbous cocktail bar the size of a VW Bug (1970s den display complete with deco chairs and shag rug) and an off-white enamel pool table that could have doubled as Liberace’s Cadillac. Turning barely, I did a mental 360, seeing the room on tilt and pan like the shot from a jib. It was the finale to Shawshank without the Ocean. Spoiler alert.

I started walking. Round the first corner, I was in a dining room across from a living room. The table was set with 1960s pink plastic plates and 1940s Cowboy placemats, Dean Martin was playing scratchily on an original 1950s record player with two detached wood box speakers buffered in gold fabric. I know you know the kind. I touched a plate waiting for Mrs. Moore to call me from the kitchen and ask me to get the black olives out of the pantry which I might bring in already attached to each of my fingertips. I started taking pictures of the starburst mirror and the hanging wood and burlap lamp, waiting for my mom to tell me to put my pajamas on, the green ones with half the Frog on the top and the other half on the bottom, and go to bed. I wandered across the aisle to the living room with the Jukebox and the low low low scratchy tan sofa, rough enough to sand down the years. Decades were peeling off.

At the end of the aisle, dual level end tables that every grandmother, great-grandmother and great-aunt I can claim owned at least one of. This was not a store, this was yesterday. And as long as I was still in here I could slip behind the velvet ropes into the room displays, kick back on one of the twin beds with pink embroidered bedspreads and maybe call up Mrs. Moore and twist my finger through the spiral phone cord while I ask her what was playing on KVIE Public Television and if I could come over tomorrow and swim in the pool. And say goodnight to peaches. I could ride cross-country with my mom in a silver Toyota while MacArthur Park is melting in the dark, and listen to records with my dad on the floor of the music room.

That’s when I saw it. Around another corner. Backlit in the gauzy glow of a curtained window like it was already at home. Sign said it was called the Lucille Ball. Walked around it like a dog who’s not sure it recognizes it’s long lost pal at first. Realized Mrs. Moore’s actual tray tables – the ones burned in my retinas from age 10 to 25 when she passed away – were right behind it. With pink plastic plates ready for roast beef sandwiches and squash. This part’s not metaphor; this is literal and they were $165. So if you have old fold-up tray tables I’d suggest packing them off the antique store.

I was homesick for life, all who have gone, and was struck with the shortness of now, moving just as fast as before. I sat down at the table, and the table caught me there, a mirror of all that had been done and whatever’s left to come. A soup, as I once said to someone who said it was the right word. I couldn’t leave it.

So I took yesterday home with me and now it’s in the corner of my “great” room, awaiting greatness. With all its yesterday and its tomorrow a melty mix. Maybe we’ll play cards and talk about my grandfather swearing. Maybe we’ll eat and take pictures and hang art. Maybe someone unknown will pull up a chair and stay awhile. Maybe I’ll just periodically sit at it like I did when I found it there near the window on Madison, and lay my head down and listen to Dean Martin and cry about the Days of Wine and Roses.

And then I’ll get up and live something.

Special thanks to (Mark?) for not “charging me extra for the seat cushions” and for knowing the importance of #story. You were wonderful and so is the place you have made. I may visit now and then just to believe for a moment that when I go to bed tonight my parents could yell from the living room, “Amy, stop singing and go to sleep.”

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