A Miraculous Makeover

He quickly came to realize that the discarded table wasn’t the only thing in need of restoring.

- Posted on Jan 28, 2013

Garry Zalesky poses with his restored table.

It was a beat-up little table set out for the trash collector that for some reason I couldn’t resist. The legs were wobbly, despite some previous owner’s attempt to nail them back on; the warped top was gouged and stained.

“What are you going to do with that old thing?” my friend Jerry said. “If it was worth anything, it wouldn’t have been thrown out in the first place.” A few calls to antique dealers confirmed his appraisal: It was just an old pine table, not a 200-year-old treasure.

And yet, here it was, in my basement workshop waiting for me. What about that warped top? My friend suggested replacing it with a sheet of plywood. Might as well buy a new table instead. And those legs, could I ever get them to stand firm?

But I kept hearing the words of the lady who’d put it out on the curb. “I couldn’t bear to throw it away, but I’m moving into a smaller place. Maybe you can fix it?”

What made me think I was the rescuer of castoffs? I’d been kicked to the curb myself after 28 years of marriage. I was still reeling from the divorce. The house where we had raised a family was now quiet as a tomb.

It pained me to see couples walking down the street, hand in hand. Even going to church and sitting in our old pew was often more than I could bear.

I didn’t want to go anywhere or see anyone. It was easier to hole up in my workshop with the table.

I ran my hands across the top. “You can straighten it out by wetting one side,” someone had advised. A lot of good that did! When the water dried out, the top returned to its previous shape. One of the legs came off in my hand. We were both in rough shape.

I asked my friend Paul to come over one weekend—he knew a lot about woodworking. “The lumber wasn’t properly seasoned when the table was first made,” he explained. “Hidden stresses made the top warp. If we make a few cuts on the backside, it should flatten against the frame.”

We screwed the top down; now it was nice and straight. That was progress.

Then my neighbor Leighton dropped by. “I can help you with that broken leg,” he said. He made a matching piece from pine that we spliced to the leg. Perfect. My friend Leon lent me his sander to smooth out the top.

I was working on the table one day and found myself singing an old hymn, “To God be the glory, great things he has done.” I hadn’t felt much like going to church, but it was as though church had come to me.

Finally the table was ready for the finish. As I brushed on the varnish, my drab, little table came to life in tones of gold and brown, and it looked good.

“I can’t believe how well you managed to fix up that old thing,” Jerry told me. He and I had been getting together more and more, to water ski, share a meal or just talk. He made me feel as good as my table looked.

Today the little pine table sits in my living room with a finish as smooth as silk. My friends say it has a lot of character. Maybe that’s what happens when you weather hard times and come through transformed, renewed and restored. Like me.


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