When I was going into second grade, my family moved back to Eastern Kentucky from the missionfield. We moved back into an old trailer my parents owned, sitting on a mountainside lot on my grandparents’ farm.
I remember some of the bustle as my parents tried to freshen up the trailer for living again. The old carpets were torn out. I remember going to a giant warehouse filled with giant rolls of carpet. Feeling each one as we walked past, wondering which one we were going to have. I remember the carpets getting laid down in the trailer, how clean and bright they made everything look. I didn’t want any furniture to ruin this perfect carpet. I remember rolling around and revelling in the softness and newness of it all.
I remember visiting an auction held in a giant barn out in the middle of a field. I remember the auctioneer’s voice going through the call for bids and how wonderfully entertaining it was to just listen to him go on and on and on in his sing-songy voice. I remember that an old solid couch came home from that auction, took up one wall of the living room.
We also had some new furniture. A shiny round glass top table with four square, modern looking wicker-type chairs with shiny chrome metal as their frame.
And then there was an old brown buffet. I don’t know if we also got it at the auction or if my parents picked it up somewhere else. It was definitely not new. But it was warm, brown, solid. A cheerful addition to our mix of furniture.
It sat in the corner of the living room. I think our TV sat on it. It had three drawers across the top and a long drawer underneath. We kept something in it that we used regularly. Maybe our cloth napkins and tablecloths? I can’t remember exactly, I just know that I had to open those drawers regularly, and they were always a pain to open. The drawers were stiff and if you didn’t pull it out exactly straight they would jam and stick.
Once a week my mom would assign cleaning chores and I remember her handing me an old cloth and a can of “Pledge” cleaner that I would spray on that buffet and then wipe industriously with my cloth. Watching as the wood took on a soft shine.
I have a vague memory of perhaps being on top of the brown buffet when my parents weren’t home and my brother and I were playing some involved game that made it necessary to not touch the floor. (Ground is lava perhaps?)
The brown buffet did not necessarily play a significant role in my childhood, I just remember it being there. When we moved back to Haiti the brown buffet went into my parents storage shed that sat on my grandparent’s farm.
After I got married my husband and I eventually settled into Eastern Tennessee. When we purchased our first house we drove up to Kentucky and raided my parents storage shed. The brown buffet came home with us and settled into our dining room. That was about seventeen years ago. The brown buffet has sat in our dining room ever since.
It is truly a buffet now. Every meal time, three times a day, I lay out the food on the brown buffet and serve the small children their plates from there and then the older kids serve themselves. In the mornings I lay out the bowels and the boxes of cereal on the brown buffet and kids serve themselves. Our silverware has a special container and it stays there permanently.
Now that my dining room is also my kitchen, the brown buffet has become one of my counters. I lay my electric griddle on it so I can make pancakes. I set my various containers of food on it while I prepare a meal on the stove that sits right next to it. In the afternoons I put out bowels of fruit for the kids or plates of cookies.
The drawers are still a pain to open so I try to only keep things in there that I don’t need to access regularly. I’ve got a drawer of old framed photos. A drawer of random decorating knick knacks I don’t use anymore. The bottom drawer holds all of the random odds and ends that my husband and I picked up on our international travels. Carved wooden statues from Haiti, tin cars from Nicaragua, pan flutes and a miniature chess set from Chile. Any time my kids need something international for school, the drawer opens and we dig around. I even have some things from my mom’s childhood in India.
Today as I wiped off the brown buffet, clearing off dirty dishes, putting away random condiments that had been left out, I suddenly remembered myself as a small child, trying to open the drawers. And I had this thought. I wonder if this dear brown buffet ever thought, years ago, that it would come to live in my home one day. That the little girl who pushed and pulled on it, wiped it clean with pledge, and sometimes clambered all over it, would one day be the mom who was working to keep it clean and organized. And yes, you can say it’s just a piece of furniture. No thoughts or emotions. But I prefer to live in a world where maybe fairies really do exist, and maybe my old piece of furniture has fond thoughts about the family it lives with and maybe it smiles benevolently on us as it watches over our mealtimes.