Broken Table and Broken Dreams

I finally conceded I needed to give the table away. It is a big (by today’s standards) kitchen table probably built in the 1940’s. All wood, it is heavy and cumbersome. Not really designed for today’s compact modern world. But for me giving it away was a difficult decision because it represented a dream unfulfilled. Although I have lived long enough to know the importance of plan B’s in my life, giving up on a long held dream is not an easy thing to do. I took comfort in the fact that the table not only represented a plan B in my life, but it must have also been similar for my grandma nearly 55 years earlier. We are connected with this broken table and broken dreams. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

Table with the three leaves leaning against the wall

Grandma’s Story

Let me start with my grandma. Born in upstate New York in 1902, she came west around 1928 or 1929 with a friend. Long story short, she met my grandpa on her trip to Nevada and didn’t make it any farther. My grandparents were married in 1930 right at the onset of the Great Depression.

To put it mildly, times were tough when work was sparse. The economy in the small Wyoming community they settled in was driven by coal mines. Not only in town but several small coal camps sprung up in the vicinity.

Coal camp life was never an easy life. Compound that with the Great Depression and you’ll get an idea of the lean times they experienced the first decade of their marriage. However, with the war came an economic boom of sorts because fuel was needed for the war efforts.

In the early 40’s, a new UP (Union Pacific) coal camp opened. Unlike previous camps though, this one boasted of nice homes and a more organized layout. Compared to previous camps, Stansbury, Wyoming appeared to be ritzier.

Around 1945 my grandparents moved into a company owned house in Stansbury. My grandma thought they had finally “made it.” This was going to be the house they would settle and grow old in. At least, the house they would live in for many years to come. To commemorate, they bought several pieces of furniture including the table with three leaves. They weren’t planning on moving anytime soon.

Ten years later though, diesel edged out coal as preferred fuel. Coal camps shut down; livelihoods were lost. The beautiful Stansbury coal camp joined the ranks. All the beautiful homes were moved and to this day, no trace of the once vibrant camp remains except for a privately owned coal mine.

My grandparents moved into town and again rented a place to live. My grandpa died in 1964 leaving my grandma a widow. The same year my parents married and in 1965 moved into a house. My grandma downsized to a trailer and gave my parents the table.

The table that my grandparents had bought because of a hope for the future now sat in my parent’s rather tiny kitchen for many, many years.

My Story

The big table was part of our family for many years. At least, all my growing up years. It was the gathering place for family dinners. When all three leaves needed to be used the table was moved downstairs for the extra space.

I have always been what you would call sentimental so when my mom announced she finally wanted a smaller table to fit in her kitchen I begged her to give me the table. It didn’t require much work and she agreed. The trouble with that agreement though was I had no place of my own. So while it waited for me to get my own place, she moved it downstairs permanently.

That was just a small matter though because I was sure I would eventually have my own family. I envisioned my own family dinners around this now family heirloom. Of course, I would tell my children about the table and how I used to sit at it as a small girl. In my mind, this was going to be wonderful.

But life has a way of taking detours and alternate routes. I never did get that family of my own. The table patiently waited downstairs holding computers and gathering dust.

Finally, I decided to be realistic. As much as I didn’t want to part with the table I knew I had to let it go. A leg was loose but other than that it is in good shape for an 80 year old table.

Much like my grandma downsized and gave the table of hope to her son I also decided to give my table of hope away. It seemed only right that someone who would be able to appreciate it receive it. I unscrewed the legs and the table was taken to the shed waiting for its next owner.

While the table at one time was a symbol of my grandma’s hope for the future it also had become a symbol for mine. Neither of us attained the dream we hoped for but such is life. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, just different. The “things” in our life only become important because of what we attach to them. To anyone else this table is just a table. A heavy, broken one at that.

Enter the art of learning to let go. Not necessarily of the table but of the dream. Once the dream vanished it became just a table. My grandma realized that and I finally realized that. I can let go of the hope of future memories and hold onto the memories that have already taken place. Such is the journey of life.

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