We mixed in expensive pieces where we envisioned their longevity, like our dining room set. We bought lesser quality couches, though we still have them eleven years later. We built a wall of bookshelves from plywood to save money, but the family room was in the basement and they weren't very visible. We painted them the same ice blue as the walls and their low-grade materials went unnoticed.
For the kitchen we bought an Ikea table. I think it was our only Ikea piece until we moved into our current home. We surrounded it with chairs from the dining room table; it's not even a whole kitchen set, just the solitary centerpiece. I remember clearly looking at the table and debating the square version for $79 or the slightly larger rectangle for $99. We splurged for the rectangle. That townhouse had a lot of flaws, but one of its lovely qualities was its very large kitchen.
I don't think we ever intended that table to be a permanent furniture solution but here we are, and here it is. It fit our budget and the gaping space in our kitchen then and it's never collapsed or broken like I thought Ikea furniture would.
I've eaten a million meals at that table and chopped and stirred for a million more. I often type at that table. Both girls learned to write their letters there and it's where E completes her homework. G climbed on it today and I scooped him off in admonition. He climbed right back on and proclaimed his greatness. I up here! I got big!
Their highchair, the one that served all three of them in turn, had for a long time a permanent spot at the far end. Today I peeled a sticker off it and scraped at a glob of purple glitter glue. I wiped it down from the aftereffects of an abandoned lollipop. It's looking shabby. A spot of veneer is clear gone. It's paint-speckled and marker-scarred and dented in a million ways a wood table shows its ministration to a young family. I wipe it down with fondness.
At the end of the day today, the kids wanted to bake. There were the four half-peeled bananas on the counter courtesy of that boy who stands on tables to reach the produce he wants; and there were the neglected but oft-repeated separate requests to make garlic bread and pound cake. We made it all; one whisk-spinning and egg-cracking project per child. We had the stand-mixer and the bread machine I ordinarily ignore and the oven all in action. We had three happy kids and the whole house smells of warm banana bread with the vanilla from the pound cake and garlic from the garlic bread. It's homey (and pungent).
As I gave the table its final wipe-down of the night, I noticed all the grooves that catch the flour. If I had known how well this table would have lasted us, I might have been more careful with it. It's well-loved, though, and fitting for the center of our home.
I found the indentations of hearts all around the perimeter, like an inscribed embroidery or lace. Everywhere the girls sit with paper, their hearts have tattooed their forms beyond ink and paper's fiber into the wood's surface.
They're leaving their marks now, too, and their brother his footprints, and now I hope this table will last forever.