How many times in my life have I scratched this table? How many times will I be lucky enough to get to do it again?
Those questions crossed my mind tonight as I cleaned up the mess we’d made at dinner.
This mess was even messier than our usual. There were just the two of us, my husband and I, cracking fresh crab and eating it with our fingers.
Earlier today he went to walk with his sister, one of his favorite things to do with one of his favorite people at one of his favorite places, Garland Ranch Regional Park, near our home in Carmel Valley, Calif.
The park includes nearly 3,500 acres of rugged land and steep trails at the northern edge of the Santa Lucia Mountains.
I wish you could see it.
I’ve seen it myself numerous times over the years, especially when my three children were growing up. We’d often picnic there on Sundays after church, hiking the trails, then heading home happy and exhausted.
I love the park’s main rule for visiting: “Take only memories and leave only footprints.”
It applies equally well, I think, as a rule for the road of life.
These days, I don’t hike quite as happily as I once did, so today I begged off to work, while my husband and his sister walked and talked.
On his way home, my husband, bless him, stopped at a fish market to pick up a couple of fresh Monterey Bay crabs, all cleaned, cooked and cracked.
I steamed some broccoli, sliced two lemons from a bush that was a housewarming gift from friends, and we were ready to feast on one of the world’s finest and easiest meals.
After dinner, he hauled the shells down to the street for trash pick-up day tomorrow. And I loaded the dishwasher and wiped down that table.
Have you ever taken something for granted — things like people and health and dining room tables — until they suddenly grab you by your collar and say, hey, remember me?
That happened to me tonight. I was wiping the table, polishing it back to a shine, trying to rub out a few of the scratches, when suddenly I saw my face reflected on its surface and recalled a lifetime of memories.
I’ve been cleaning that table, and accidentally scratching it, most of my adult life. It’s 6 ft. long, 3 ft. wide, and built of dark-stained pine from the mountains where I was born.
I bought it with my late husband when we were first married and had it shipped from North Carolina, to California.
From the start, just looking at it made me feel at home. It came with two ladder-back chairs that sit at either end, and two heavy benches that fit along the sides for children and guests.
In addition to serving as a dining table, it has also been a place for homework and projects, potlucks and parties and, oh, so many celebrations.
We refinished it several times over the years. But if you look closely, you can still see a few places where my kids pressed too hard with their pencils.
Now, when our grandkids come to dinner, I love pointing out to them where their parents left their marks long ago.
The next time my husband’s sister (who is also one of my favorite people) and her family are in town, I hope we can all hike in Garland Park together, then come back to our house to feast on crab (or whatever’s in season) on that table.
I would like that a lot.
It’s not a very big table, but it still has room for all sorts of new memories. Just looking at it still makes me feel at home.
Someday, when I move on from this life to the next, I’ll pass it along to one of my children ... or maybe to one of my grandchildren.
I’ll be taking nothing but memories and leaving only footprints — and a lot of scratches on an old pine table.
Contact freelance columnist Sharon Randall at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove, CA 93950 or firstname.lastname@example.org.