Building Rickety Tables

September 28, 2012

I know there are a lot of fantastic DIY blogs on the Internet that provide insightful instructions on home improvement projects, but mine is not one of them. This probably comes as a shock, because I assume you started reading based on the title  and are eager to learn how to build a table that specializes in rickety. I’m sorry to disappoint, especially since I hear rickety tables are hipster now.

To be honest, I don’t trust myself as an expert with do-it-yourself projects because I lack the crucial skill of patience. I start swinging a sledgehammer first and then hope there is something to demolish second.  I really enjoy working with staple guns and hammers, but I avoid tape measures, levels, and other snooze-fest tools.  My construction role model is Tim “the tool man” Taylor.

So when Mike and I decided to build our own kitchen table, there was a heightened sense of risk. Mike had only been home from Afghanistan for a minute, so he was used to interacting with temperamental people with dangerous weapons. This was useful.

Anyway, we were really excited. Mike spent a lot of time measuring things at Lowe’s, I spent a lot of time playing on the flat-bed cart and buying snacks at the cash register.

We cut things with a circular saw and used lots of screws and wood glue because that’s what you do when you build things.

My dad is more like Al Borland than Tim “the tool man” Taylor, except he doesn’t have a beard. He only wears flannel sometimes. The point is, he is a legitimate construction expert, so he helped us fuse the table top together.

I mixed some stains together because my creativity refuses to be confined to one color. We arrived at a weathered grayish/brown, which was a success.

And after lots of hard work and sweating, we finished it!

Here is what it looks like in our house:

When we finished our amazing table something remarkable happened. We discovered that the table was not what most would call “stable.” It was rickety, like, sway with the beat rickety.

Before anyone tries to provide lots of helpful suggestions, let me assure you that we talked to our friends at Home Depot, Lowes, and my dad who is kind of like Al Borland. We added support hardware, fortified the corners. We tried really hard and in different ways and the table was still rickety. It was disappointing.

For some reason, I’ve been thinking all day about how much my rickety table feels like my rickety life right now.

Every new season, every move, every new duty station, is a construction project. And every time we start to build something new, I have the impulse to construct something perfect, like a picture I’ve seen in a magazine or something I’ve pinned on Pinterest. I am convinced Pinterest is just a tool to make us all feel bad about ourselves. It’s working.

In the military life, we are required to build something new every two or three years: new friends, new jobs, new favorite restaurants and jogging routes. It feels like perpetual remodeling. Sometimes it feels exhausting.  I always forget how much work it is to rebuild. We all put down roots to transplant them again.

With all of these friends visiting our new duty station, sometimes I feel self-conscious about our rickety table. Before people sit down at the table, I always warn them that it isn’t totally stable. I tell them it sways. I watch the movement of their knees and elbows and hope those bony parts don’t bump the rickety parts. I fear that they will be disappointed, when I really want them to be impressed.

Just like that, sometimes I feel the need to warn them about our rickety life, too. We are still getting to know the area… we are still figuring out a church… still visiting new restaurants. I promise we will have more friends soon!

We are still figuring out how to secure this new remodel of our lives. I fear that in their assessment of our lives, they will be disappointed, when I really want them to be impressed.

But last night as we sat around our table with some favorite friends from our favorite Colorado, I realized how little the ricketiness mattered. In fact, no one noticed it but me. I really need to stop apologizing for it.

Because I the paranoia about our vulnerable life-ricketiness holds us back from the very things necessary to rebuild: people. relationships. dinner parties.

Tables are really just an invitation for community. Why else do we have more than two chairs?

So I decided to embrace the ricketiness, since we all bring some to the table. I’m calling it hipster. I’m posting it on Pinterest. I’m having new friends over for dinner, because the table is just an invitation.

It helps us rebuild.

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