It’s just as well that my furniture restorer guy isn’t there when I see the mahogany table that he has restored for me. He has left it in a safe place for me, lovingly wrapped in a wool blanket. I remove the blanket and the efforts of his work are revealed. The table looks more beautiful than I ever remember it. I lay my head on it, inhale the glorious smell of varnish and wood, hug this inanimate object and have a little sob.
As a child, my memories of this table are all from the underside and I can’t say that I ever remember sitting at it. The table was in the sitting room and not really used, maybe because the table leaves were always unsteady, as one of the support hinges was missing. The table was in our sitting room. Weekends and rainy afternoons were spent sitting under the table, making dens. The table was draped with heavy wool blankets, creating a dark, but not scary environment. The weight of the drapes dulled the sounds of The Duke of Hazzard on TV and smells of my mother’s baking in the kitchen. Caution was required when crawling out of the the den, as there was usually a scattering of Lego on the carpet.
Looking at it now, I wonder if my memory has deceived me about the number of children that could actually fit underneath this modest table, that really only seats four people. When I picture myself there, I’m on my own, with my baby doll, Susie. I’m wearing my wine velvet trousers and cream fair isle legwarmers, sitting crossed legged there, my long hair clipped back with purple hair slides. I like playing with the drawers underneath the table. The wood is thinner than the rest of the table. Not varnished. The drawers make a hollow rattle as I slide them in and out. In one drawer is a newspaper, with a photograph of John F Kennedy, with his wife Jackie. As I remember it, it is a commemorative paper, in honour of his visit to Ireland in 1963. I can’t remember what they are doing in the photograph, but I can see, the vivid inks of blues and orange of the print and smell of must that says ‘old’.
When I was involved in making a film, relating to a JFK conspiracy all of these years later, the image that first came to my mind is that yellowing newspaper.
At some stage, the table was relegated to under the stairs and stayed there until I brought it to Kildare about 14 years ago, for the apartment I had just moved into with my husband to be. My father wasn’t that happy that I was taking the table ‘out of Milltown’, but I reassured him that it would be loved. When I moved into Poppy Cottage, the mahogany table seemed too small and again found itself relegated, this time to my shed, replaced by a glass and chrome piece. When my father asked about 'the antique', I didmy best to change the subject.
As my marriage fell apart, I discouraged visitors from coming here and the house that was often filled with people, was reserved for myself and my children. Anything that resembled hospitality now seemed like hard work. Furthermore, I couldn’t manage to man oeuvre the heavy glass table on my own and it didn’t take kindly to being shifted around.
Since my father died, I was bothered about the 'antique' and was keen to live up to my promise to take care of it. My brother pulled the table out of my shed during the summer. I was horrified at the state of it. Heavy equipment had been thrown on it over the years and the frame was warped. A tin of bitumen, or something similar, somehow made its way into the shed and was poured all over the table. One of the legs had begun to rot. The JFK newspaper, long gone.
My furniture restorer, Brian, declared it a ‘very sick table’ and scheduled it in for repair in November. The cost of repair probably cost more than it is worth, but I don’t care. The damage incurred in my shed is gone, with no sign of either the bitumen, or indeed, the ink stains that were there since I was a child. The missing hinge was replaced. The drawers now sport fancy porcelain knobs, but I’m pleased that they still make that hollow wood sound when I slide them in and out.
My children have yet to see the newly restored table. I know that my boy will rub his hand over the smooth surface and have a good sniff of the varnish. My daughter will be charmed by the pattern on the porcelain knobs.
My mother will come to Poppy Cottage for Christmas Day this year, her first Christmas away from Kilmainhamwood in over 40 years. We will have dinner at the table and we will raise a glass to my Da. I’m looking forward to that.
But if truth were told, I’m more excited about draping blankets across it and crawling underneath.
POSTSCRIPT So much for my ideas of making a den : My children arrived home and spotted the potential of the table as a clip board for a lighting rig for making a video for their Youtube channel ...