Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Tale of the Unintentional Table

From the time I was tiny, my mother took me antiques shopping so I learned early to love the feeling of furniture with the patina of age and with the character quirks that come only from being handled and used for years.  I learned, too, that although some items were lovely, they had a bad inner character--maybe they had been in an unpleasant atmosphere; there was just something about them that you didn't want to bring home--and that others, perhaps not so perfect, had been influenced by an essential and inescapable warmth and charm.  My dining table is one of the latter.

I have come by much of my furniture by "trading up."  I'd accept whatever was available at the time, often these were items that were given to me by people who no longer wanted them.  It didn't matter to me whether I liked the item or not, as long as it was useful.  I'd polish or pretty it up, and when I found something better that I could afford, I'd sell the old piece and trade up.....until I found another something better still.  My best estimate is that I've owned at 9 or 10 dining tables.  

Eight years ago, I was happy enough with the table that I had.  It wasn't something I would have chosen but it was serviceable and not offensive--that tends to be how I feel about a lot of stuff.  Few things are terribly important; they are just enjoyable or they are not.  But I really liked the table that my friend had in her antiques shop--truthfully, I long for the look and feel of English antiques but they are just not in my budget.  Still, it costs nothing to look, right?  The octagonal oak table with the chubby carved legs had no chairs but it came with two extra leaves, and it was unusual in that it opened with a crank.  It was a charming piece but it had already been sold and was on layaway.

Well, it just so happened that I was in the antiques shop on the very day when that customer came to make his final layaway payment on the lovely English table.  As he ran his hand across the table while preparing to load it into his truck, he felt a fairly large "smile" in the finish--the sort of odd bump that sometimes appears in old wood.  He hadn't noticed it before and he said the shop owner was cheating him with inferior goods, that she had concealed the defect; he really was very rude, and he suddenly demanded his money back.  The table wasn't perfect so it wouldn't do for his house.  

The table had been waiting patiently in the shop for years for a buyer, and then this one interested customer had been very slow to pay.  My antiques store friend was furious.  She actually threatened to burn the table right there in the street, and she meant it.  I know this because she demanded that I to go into the shop to fetch the matches.  All I could say was, "Oh, please don't do that--it's so pretty!"  And she said, "Fine.  You've bought it.  You can have it at cost."  Cost was still quite a bit but only a third of the ticket price.  Since I'm good at selling furniture, I was able to make a profit for her on other items while I bartered my time to pay for the table, watching the shop so my friend could have some time off.  

That is how I unintentionally bought a 150-year-old antique English table.

The chairs I already had were a fair "go-with"  (though they aren't what I'd prefer).  But maybe one day I'll find some other seats that the table and I like better.  I have an idea in mind for something unusual but I'm not looking in an intentional way--still, you never know what will turn up while  you're wishing.  The table itself is proof of that.

Ever since those long ago antiques store tours with my mother, I've believed that antiques have a mind of their own and a way of going where they want to go so I think that maybe this table was just waiting for me.  I cannot imagine ever trading it up.    It's better than I could have wished for.

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