Last night I had the weirdest dream. I was inside an Egyptian pyramid – not as a tourist, but as the permanent resident! What made the whole thing so unsettling was not the fact that I had been mummified (surprisingly, the bandages had kind of a slimming effect) – it was looking around and discovering to my horror that in keeping with the purpose of the pyramids, which was to equip the Pharaohs for the afterlife by surrounding them with their most treasured possessions, in some cruel twist of fate I'd been buried with the one possession of mine that I HATE the most – my dining room set!
That clump of ugly furniture and I have been at odds with each other since day one. How we came to be shackled together is a story all to itself, and although it pains me to recall it, here goes. The year was 1979 and my husband and I were living in our first tiny little house which had been completely furnished up to that point with random acts of kindness (aka: cast-offs from relatives.) A major furniture purchase was definitely not in our budget – nevertheless when Marc opened the newspaper one day and saw a little five-piece dinette set on sale for a bargain price at the local furniture store, he decided it was too good to pass up.
So we hopped in our trusty Ford Pinto and made a beeline to the store, lest somebody else should get there first and snap it up. When we arrived it was just as advertised – a plain but respectable little Formica-topped table and four chairs. Not spectacular but definitely cheap. We bought it on the spot and were delighted to learn that it would be delivered to our house that very afternoon.
Four hours later the doorbell rang. First the delivery men brought in the four chairs, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much nicer they seemed to look in my home than they had on the showroom floor. Next they unloaded a leaf. "Cool!” I thought. "I didn't know this set even came with a leaf!” Finally they brought in the table; only it wasn't the same table we'd seen in the store. This was a real table – significantly bigger than the one we paid for, and made out of beautiful, warm hand-rubbed solid pine!
For a brief moment both Marc and I had our mouths open to say "Excuse me, I think there's been a mistake”, but nothing came out. Instead we just looked at each other. What should we do? What would Jesus do?
Clearly this was a defining moment, and with the choice between right and wrong staring us boldly in the face, here is what I'm embarrassed to admit we did: Ignoring our consciences entirely, we convinced ourselves that this must surely be a blessing from above, so we clammed up and kept the upgraded table. Then, before anybody could wise up about the error, we quickly got in the car, drove back to the furniture store and purchased two more chairs (one of them even had arms!) By the time the sun set on that very day we were the proud, if slightly uneasy, owners of a genuine wood table and six matching chairs.
Not long afterward I was riding up an escalator in a department store when I spotted a china cabinet that went with our table and chairs perfectly, and like an idiot I bought it. Don't ask me why. I mean, really. The stuff is all Early American and I hate Early American.
The worst part was, now that we had a complete set, it suddenly became our "formal dining room” furniture, which was not what I wanted at all. I had something along the lines of a lovely Queen Anne style in mind for that. But alas it was too late. I had made my bed; now I had to eat on it.
That was more than thirty years ago, and to this day every time I walk by that table I could kick myself (I usually just end up kicking the table) for not doing the right thing and sending it back to the store in 1979 when I had the chance. Instead, thanks to my poor choice, I have a sinking feeling I am destined to spend the rest of my life with this awful stuff.
The thing is, until last night I just never dreamed I'd have to spend eternity with it too.