The soft hum of conversation surrounds me. I sit at a small rectangular table by the wall of my my favorite local coffee shop, a friendly trio – my mug of cherry mocha, composition notebook journal, and small potted plant – keeping me company. This is a comfortable place, one without even a hint of pretense. Lovingly-wrapped chocolates line the shelves along the walls, waiting to be purchased as gifts, and small pieces of artwork from a local photographer hang in the gaps. It is early morning, and the old-timers are meeting behind me, bonding over the small town newspaper, or maybe a game of chess, and discussing current events. The regulars, those who are in the rushed transition between home and work, bustle in and out, grabbing their cuppa something and offering a quick hello to friend and stranger alike. After sharing a few greetings of my own, I root around in my purse for my bright yellow fountain pen and settle in for a quiet hour.
It’s like this nearly every morning. This small place, frequented by so many in my town, is a hodgepodge of scattered, mismatched wooden chairs and tables, all with unique personality, and each holding moment after moment of shared life. I am hard-pressed to find the shop empty, unless I am waiting by the door when it is unlocked, and surprisingly, this comfortable-in-her-skin introvert likes it that way. I am known here. And not just by the owners and the regular guests, but also by the space.
Worn things remember. And as I sit at the rough-grained table by the wall, I feel its memory pulsing under my fingertips, and I sense its welcome. I do not worry about a coffee ring, or a slip of the pen, for my table has seen these mishaps before, and simply absorbs them along with the conversation that falls gently down all day long. I find myself wondering who else will sit in this chair today, what stories will be told, what secrets revealed. The table won’t tell; it knows well how to be discreet. I myself have had moments of tears here, and moments of laughter. I have met with friends who are struggling, and friends who are celebrating, and each time I sit in this place, it seems to have expanded a bit more to accommodate all that it knows.
I am just a small part of this quilted and shared life, lived at this table day in and day out, and I relish the juxtaposition of anonymity and familiarity. After my hour is up and my time here is done, I will leave no recognizable trace, and yet the touch memory of this worn table will retain something of my experience, and my presence will become another piece of the fabric of this place. With each visit, I am adding to our collective memory, and I too can feel the presence of those who come before, and will come after, in never-ending rhythm.
I am not averse to the occasional visit to a large-scale coffee shop chain, but whenever possible I return here, to this little tucked-away location on a small side street in my hometown. I much prefer the soft memory of worn things, to the shiny, tight-fitting brilliance of the new. I prefer to be welcomed, to be remembered, and to benefit from the connectedness I feel when surrounded by these pieces of old furniture who know so much.
Christine Hiester is known as artist, writer, mama, wife, contemplative, and lover of coffee and chocolate. She can be found at Choffey’s Coffee and Confection in Delaware, Ohio, on Instagram @fruitnseason, and on her blog barebranchblooming.com.