The Burned Accent Table

by Robin Turnipseed

One hallmark of newlywed life is the gaining of hand-me-down furniture. Honestly, this accrument is foundational to anyone starting life independently, whether newly married or not. At some point, we have all gathered our fair share of mix-and-match items, generously donated by those who love us and wish to help us on our way while simultaneously cleaning out their overflowing garages and storage rooms.

It is a win-win situation all around.

However, as the receiver, we occasionally gain goods that may have a scuff or scratch on surfaces that cause us to question their originFor example, for decades, I wondered how a perfectly round mark became etched into the beautiful vintage walnut accent table gifted to us early into our marriage. For years I thought the spot was an oil stain, even questioning if my children had managed to damage the table and keep it a secret or if the mark was a souvenir gained through one of our many moves. 

However, the answer to my inquiry provided a better story than I imagined.

A Suprise Discovery

I discovered the story behind the burn last fall near the end of a visit with my father-in-law, George. After a full day of fun, I escorted him to the door when I saw him glance into my husband’s office. Suddenly, he stopped walking, and I saw him spot an accent table in the far corner. He turned and asked me a simple question, and I could tell from his expression that an anecdote accompanied the story.

“Wait, does that table happen to have a round burn spot on its top?” 

I immediately steered him over to the table and made him recount every delightful detail. I am so thankful we took the time that day because now I love the table all the more. It adds character and charm, and I will forever look at the mark and think back to the afternoon spent laughing over the antics of a little boy and seeing a bit of that little boy resurface as he retold the tale almost sixty years later.

Enjoy the story and go inquire about the mystery scratch or scuff on one of your hand-me-downs. You may be surprised by what you hear.

PPT: Ok, you stopped dead in your tracks once you saw this table, which tells me you have answers to my questions. What is this spot? 

George: It’s a burn mark. I remember we moved to Shopton, AL, where this table was, and Mama and Daddy built a house that cost $12,500. They only had a power bill, and this accent table was in the bedroom that I shared with my brother. I remember that the room had big windows and looked over the chicken pen.

PPT: You are smiling like there is more to that story. Did you burn the table?

George: My friend named Ben had spent the night with me. It was Halloween, and we had a little paper mache pumpkin lantern with a place inside to place a small candle. I will never know why there was a place to put a candle inside a paper mache lantern, but we had the idea to light it and set it on the table. So we went to bed, and I woke up to that pumpkin lantern in flames.

PPT: Those lanterns were popular then, and I have wondered the same thing. So, wait, you lit it and went to bed? 

George: Well, I didn’t light it. Ben lit it. I was asleep and woke up, and a small fire had started on the table.

PPT: Holy cow! How old were you again? 

George: We had to be in elementary school, so I may have been ten, so that was over 65 years ago.

PPT: It’s unbelievable how that memory stuck. You must have panicked waking up to a fire. How did you respond at ten years old? 

George: I don’t remember how I put it out exactly. I probably picked it up and threw it out one of those giant windows in our room. But we knew we would be in trouble if Mama and Daddy discovered the burned pumpkin.

PPT: Ok, what lesson did you learn from the burn spot?

George: (laughing) I learned to watch who you bring home to spend the night with you.

PPT: I absolutely agree!

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