Not long after my parents divorced and my mother took all of her antiques, my father came home with a set of furniture. He had a talent for acquiring industrial hand-me-downs: a camping trailer outfitted as a flight simulator, a neon orange van, self-serve ice cream machine, thousands of IBM computer cards that supplied us with more than a decade of notepads.
The furniture once belonged to an airport office lobby—one matching sofa and chair with faux leather cushions framed in chrome arms and legs, standing chrome lamps, and a square glass coffee table supported by a chrome frame shaped like an “x.” I resented the glass table like I resented my father’s girlfriends. Too contemporary, cold and sharp-edged for my father’s style, the equivalent of Miss Hendry and her Southern disdain for our recklessness, of Deidre and her psychobabble insights into our behavior, of Claudia and her constant rearranging of our house. The glass table was high maintenance.
How could he replace the worn maple table with its rounded corners? One glance from the glass edge would end up in a bruise. At 10, I knew it was impractical for a family of five kids, the oldest of who was hyperactive and developmentally disabled and prone to glass-shattering tantrums.
It demanded rules of conduct: no soft drinks without coasters, no roughhousing within five feet, no mistaking it for a footstool. Over time, the small rubber cushions that protected the glass from the chrome disappeared and the table wobbled, producing an arrhythmic tick.
I was certain we had a large mallet in the garage.