The wood has a darker stain than when I was younger, so the worn corners are not as noticeable. Maybe visitors, people who don't have history with us, wouldn't even notice them. But I look at those nicked corners of the coffee table every time I walk into the blue and white house. Sometimes I move my fingers along its sides and remember.
The solid maple table was bought by my parents out of an underground war bunker, two street levels beneath a storefront in Frankfurt, Germany. I picture their eyes running along the patterns in the wood on top. I imagine them pulling in and out the small drawer, examining the thick, squared legs. They paid two hundred marks for it. It was 1973.
My dad, being a United States Army man, had been stationed in Germany several years before I was born. The upper management of our family had a life there. Two brothers were born there. I wish we had more photos.
The table was about four feet high, used for conferences or in a lab. My parents had length taken off the legs so it could be used in front of their couch to hold books, cups, and newspapers. In Germany, then back here across the ocean, their six, seven, eight, nine, ten children found about eighty-seven more uses for the sturdy, now-coffee, table. It was a stool. It was a fort. It was a skating rink. It was a dance floor. It was the center of our world.