Weathered Barn Wood, A Rusty Railroad Tie, and A Familiar Book


Is it possible to be reminded of something like home, when you are already there, knelt beside your table that once was a door from an old place on the prairie?

I am Not a Morning Person, but I’ve come to appreciate this time alone with my thoughts coming alive with every sip of coffee. In my solitude, I sit on my knees at my beloved barn wood coffee table and think. Today, it’s the coffee table itself that consumes my thoughts. Mine is comprised of hickory perhaps, but aged barn wood, nevertheless, that used to be an old door complete with a keyhole that long ago lost its metal and key. But the keyhole will never be lost; it will be there until the end of time. For the record, the missing key isn’t hiding in the depths of that hole. I know, because I looked. Only time lives in that hole.

The substantial wood door tabletop is perched upon heavy, cast iron legs that have stubbed more than a few errant toes through the years…if only I had a dollar for every swear word that table conjured. The table is solid and immovable by me without four hands; I sadly only possess two, which makes positioning the table from errant toes especially difficult. But the table, otherwise, is positioned precisely where it’s supposed to be.

The door was once properly fitted by a young farmer on his cabin from a long ago place and time on a prairie, or so I imagine. A picture of Charles Ingalls comes to mind, and I know in my heart, that old door really belonged to someone like him. But, that old toe stubber of a table is mine for a time, or until one hundred years from now when someone else calls my table, which used to be an old door on the prairie, theirs.

My paperweight is a rusty railroad tie given to me by a dear friend from a past birthday. Someone drove that stake into some railroad where trains and people traversed, long ago.

Likely it was from a place in which I’ve never visited. Or maybe I’ve been there after all; I do like that storyline better. If only I knew where the nearest crossing was from which or from where it was extracted, I might dare to go there and drive that stake into its old place again. The aged has a way of losing its place in time, like that old rusty railroad tie, and that is sad to me. But, alas, I could never part with my paperweight, after all it was a special gift from a dear friend for my birthday; it has meaning and it’s mine. But, I hope whomever calls it theirs next imagines its old place at a railroad crossing where people once traversed, and they do not imagine merely me, a woman who called that rusty railroad tie, her paperweight. I hope they imagine my rusty railroad tie properly sitting in its place on top of an old door that once belonged on someone’s prairie cabin from long ago.

Railroad shot by Tonia Allen Gould, Indiana

The familiar scent of coffee seeps from my favorite mug, another gift, but this time from a former client, molded by hand, and fired in a kiln in the South Bay on a Saturday, some twenty-five years ago. He could have given that mug to anyone, but he gave it to me. I’ve never kept anything quite so silly, and fragile, for quite so long. I break things. I don’t mean to, but I’m a klutz and I’m not designed to keep things like this for long. But, this silly, fragile mug has managed to survive me. And, that my friends, is why it has that grateful look look on its face.

I wonder if someone will ever want to make my favorite mug their own one day, long after I’m gone, if in the end it manages to survive me? Will my children one day read this and fight over my silly, fragile mug? And will the winner of that lottery get angry, or maybe even cry, when one of their guests accidentally knocks it onto the floor where it finally shatters into a thousand shards of ceramic? Will they say, tearfully, “That was my mother’s favorite silly, fragile mug! It’s all I had left of her!” And, will they remember it was given to me by one of my clients who molded its face by hand and fired it in a kiln on a Saturday somewhere in the South Bay? Will they remember it could’ve been given to anyone else but me? Or, will that mug wind up eventually shattered, anyway, in a bin at a garage sale was lost on everyone but me?

On that old table, that once was a door from an old house on the prairie, is also a classic book revisited, Pride and Prejudice, which I’ve promised myself I would finally reread. But rereading it may make me finally move it from its place on that old door that is now a table.

Suddenly, people I’ve come to know other than Jane Austen, break the silence from the room adjacent to me, along with the sound of a door (that is actually a door and not a table) opening, a toilet flushing, and water cascading from an outdoor fountain nearby. It all reminds me of home.

But I am home. Those people, breaking the silence and my reverie, are my family, just the same as is the old barn wood table, that once was a door, the rusty railroad tie that lost its place, the smell of coffee wafting from my eventual shattered mug, and the treasured novel that remains unread, still, and yet again.

Is it possible to be reminded of something like home, when you are already there, knelt beside your table that once was a door from an old place on the prairie?