Once Upon A Farm Table
It all started with a picture. And not just any picture.
I was flipping through pinterest one day and saw a photo of a table that took my breath away. I stared at it. The picture was so beautiful that the wood almost seemed alive– the grain of it was smooth from years of wear. A beautiful set of soft, wrinkly grandma hands kneaded bread on top of it. The wood was a deep, reddish hue– and it basked in the golden sunlight that was bathing her hands, the lump of dough she was creating, and the table, in an ethereal, heavenly glow.
It was love at first sight.
I printed off the picture and used a magnet to hang it on the fridge. I looked at it every day while I made supper. Over the years the picture got a bit curled around the edges. The colors faded a little bit where the sun had kissed it.
But I still looked at the picture of that table every day.
For 10 years or so, I kept that picture. I knew in my heart that no other table would do. I always looked for a table like it at flea markets– at antique stores. I knew it was old, but I had no idea what to call it when people asked me what I was looking for.
“The most beautiful table in the world?” I said. They smiled and shrugged.
“You could look around. You might get lucky.”
And I tried. I tried to think lucky thoughts. I tried carrying that picture around with me to antique shops and flea markets– showing it around like a worried mother trying to find her lost child.
“Have you seen it? Please take a look. Have you seen anything like this? Ever? Anywhere?”
They would study it. Some even scrunched up their faces or adjusted their glasses. They passed it around, the looks on their faces saying it all.
“Nope sorry. I’ve never seen anything like that around her. That looks old. Maybe try the antiques shop across the road. They have all kinds of old stuff.”
I would always smile and thank them, not bothering to mention that I had already been to the antiques store across the road, and just about every other one within a state-wide radius. No one knew what this table was. No one knew where I could find one. But they all agreed on one thing:
“Boy it sure is pretty, ain’t it!”
One day I was randomly looking through the Craigslist antique listings (something that I have been doing for the last decade, searching for a table like the one in my picture). And suddenly I caught my breath. I leaned in closer. Was it? Could it? Could it . . . be?
The ad was from a furniture maker in Tennessee– The Handmade Table— who specializes in hand-milled, antique wood from the mid 1800s and earlier. The tables, countertops, and antique flooring on their website made my jaw drop. My hands were trembling so hard that I almost couldn’t compose the email to write to them. I kept staring at the picture like a dog who has finally picked up the scent of his prey on a long, LONG, cold trail.
Pretty soon I got an email back from David– the rather remarkable owner and builder of these tables. David is a former accountant who turned his passion for antique building materials and old fashioned techniques into a new career. Listening to him describe the beauty of the wood that he selects– how painstakingly he maintains the integrity and the original, hand-hewn axe marks of the edges– was like listening to a curate of a museum lovingly tell me about his favorite work of art.
As I listened to him talk about how they still make everything by hand– down to using wooden pegs instead of nails, and mortise and tenon joints instead of screws, just as would have been used in the old days– I absolutely fell in love. I could feel butterflies in my stomach. This beautiful table that I had wanted for so long. This was why I could never find it. Because furniture is not made this way anymore. Like so many classics, you can’t find them because the craftsmanship today simply isn’t there.
The wood that David uses is centuries old– with no stain– just original patina from years and years of settled weathering. And David remembers each piece he has ever done, like a father remembering a child. As I was looking through the photos he would say, “Oh yeah– I remember that one. That was from an old grain threshing floor in Vermont. Such beautiful coloring.” Or, “This one is a neat one. This is from an old lamppost in the original city of Philadelphia, in the late 1700s, when their lampposts were still made out of wood. Isn’t that something?” His eyes shine.
And so does his work.
It took several months for David and his team to craft our perfect farm table– their work has been featured everywhere from Architectural Digest to Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine, but he has not let fame go to his head. He still takes the time to craft his tables the way the original builders did, hundreds of years ago, when this wood was virgin timber cut from the seemingly endless forests of America. If people have to wait, then they wait. He takes his time and does it right.
The day the table arrived, I could hardly contain my excitement. I watched out the window all day like a little girl on Christmas Eve, unable to rest because she is straining to hear Santa Claus. Finally, a big truck backed slowly and carefully down the driveway. David got out and introduced himself. He gently lifted a covering off of the back of the truck.
And, after almost a decade of waiting . . . searching . . . dreaming . . . there it was.
We get along splendidly, this table and I.
Every time I go by, I smile. I reach out my hand and softly smooth it as I pass. I take photos on it. I serve family dinner on it. I sit there, sometimes, and do nothing but sit and appreciate it. I think of the wood that it came from– of men hundreds of years ago pulling logs so large out of the forest that David can make an entire tabletop out of only 2 boards. I think of the craftsmanship, almost an extinct skillset today, that crafted these boards together well enough to withstand the winds and rains and storms of the centuries and still standing proudly, ready for round 2. I thought of my picture– the faded, curled veteran on my fridge the last decade.
Do you know what I found out? The picture that I had carried around and left on my fridge for 10 years? It turns out that it was of a table that David made, years ago. And I had no idea. When I heard that, I just smiled.
It seems it was meant to be.
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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