When I was 5, I attended a birthday party because at that time in my life, I had friends. I don’t recall many details of the party, but what I do recollect is the one detail essential to even the most rudimentary of childhood birthday celebrations: the goodie bag.
I came home with a little bag of treats full of empty candy wrappers, a slinky, and my favorite item of all – bubbles. There was just something about my 5 year old mind that knew bubbles were the greatest thing ever. In fact, if you have kids that don’t like bubbles, I suggest they be evaluated. I used to think when bubbles would float their way up into the clouds that they were going to heaven, which is precisely where I believe they come from as well.
Upon arriving home, I made a dash to the living room, where my sister and I spent the next several hours playing with our new little trinkets. After a (long) while, my bubbles were no longer of immediate interest to me, so I set them down on the table. This wasn’t just any table though; it was a white, wooden and apparently very expensive table that had recently become the newest addition to our living room. You can imagine the sheer panic I felt as I turned around to see my entire container of bubbles spilled across it. So I did what any 5 year old would do, and covered my mess with my plastic treat bag, thinking surely it would soak up my soapy spill. Well, it didn’t, and my parents were less than thrilled when hours later, they discovered their new table with eroded paint, completely stripped of its new, shiny luster.
The lesson I had to learn through that experience was that covering up a mess only makes it bigger. And I had to look at that table every day to remind me of it. The tragic tale of my irresponsibility has been recounted to every guest to ever sit around that table, and each time it caused more shame and embarrassment than the time before. There were so many days I wished we could load the thing in the truck and take it to the dump. I wanted the wretched reminder of my mistake vanished from my mind altogether.
Today, that table still sits as an essential piece of the living room in our basement. Over the years, it’s been scuffed and battered, and there are nail polish drips and permanent marker stains to prove it. And though the table itself is an overall unimpressive little thing, it’s a special little piece of furniture as well.
It’s not so much the table itself that is special, but rather, the people that have sat around it. Crafts, manicures, card games – all took place at that table. Under it we made forts, on top of it we danced. Popcorn bowls were placed on it for many movie nights and lots of legs propped up on it for lazy weekend sports watching. What used to be a reminder of a terrible mistake, now serves as a reminder of simple childhood memories.
I’m learning to embrace those sweet, simple moments- messy as they may be- because all too soon, those moments become few. Time passes. Kids grow up. Your sister gets married, you prepare to leave for college, and nobody ever seems to be in the same place at once. You look back and realize you’ve outgrown your fort making days and long movie nights. The table gathers dust.
Today, if your laundry pile is sky high, your sink is full of dishes and there’s homework to be done, who cares? So what if the floor is dirty and the kids are dirtier and you’re eating frozen pizza. If you’re lucky enough to have any amount of time together around your table, cherish those moments, bask in the grace of them, because sooner or later, those times will be few and far between. And in the end, it’s not about the stains or the spills on top of the table, but the memories that were made around it.