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I have never liked crayons. They’re fine when they’re new, I suppose, if you like that sort of thing. Very sharp and shiny. Everybody loves them. But children, with grubby hands and scraggly fingernails, simply can’t leave them alone. They tear off the wrappers and grind down the rainbow into stumps. Who wants stumps? Put them in the back of your mind. Save them for craft projects, but don’t let your friends see them. Get a nice new box that’s just for show.
I am a haven for old crayons. Children coloring too hard, going off the paper. Olive green and tickle me pink wax stains. I’m sticky with glue that dripped off and somebody forgot to wipe. Sharpies. A disgrace, if you ask me.
Covered with not quite finished multiplication work, drawings in progress, and remnants of yesterday’s grilled cheese. I am full of the half-done and the accidents and the forgotten. They don’t love me anymore.
I used to really be something, you know what I mean? Used to be the dining room table, so special, so precious. I got the wood polish and the seasonal table cloths, the calm adult conversation. Then my family had twins, moved to a bigger house. I’m a small table, not grand enough for their space. So away with me, into the breakfast nook, and in comes a snotty bigshot made of old-growth forests.
Mature mahogany legs turned neatly at the floor, fold-out leaves, six plump burgundy chairs sitting pretty. Not that great, in my opinion. But the humans fall all over it. They croon and coo, and parade the houseguests in front of it. It lounges in the spotlight, soaking up the fame.
I get the kids. Toddlers, kindergarteners, elementary schoolers. A tornado of mac n’ cheese, spilled milk, and broccoli thrown on the floor. Piles of coloring books and glitter and scissors and markers and the world. But it’s suffocating me.
They are trying to make me invisible. And it’s working.
One day, the kids squeal more than usual, shoving the mounds of art supplies aside and smacking a box on top of me. There’s rustling and heated whispers, and I feel the lid fly off. Then a noise, a kind of purring, a small “meow”, and shrieks of delight. Paws. A cat. God help me.
The cat likes me though. It pads up and rolls on me when it’s sunny, its claw pricks more comforting than painful. The children follow it and pet it carefully, using their manners, forgetting to defile me with “tuscan red” and “burnt orange”. Sometimes I am covered with cat hair, but I don’t really mind. I kind of like having it around. It’s nice to have somebody who notices me.
The cat does not like the dining room table. It arches its back when it goes near it, hissing slightly. It refuses to touch the table, until the day it uses one of those perfect legs as a scratching post. I watch gleefully as eight thin strips of varnish peel off the glossy wood repeatedly, until the entire leg is covered in weeping hash marks.
The cat comes and crouches beneath me, shivering, while the humans scurry about like frightened little rabbits, running about for the paint and wood varnish. After they clean up, they come to stand in a menacing circle over the cat. The father shakes his head at the cat. “Bad kitty. You do this again, we’re going to have to put this table in the basement. Too bad.”
What? That table gets replaced too?
“Speaking of tables…” He surveys me. I cringe, waiting for the verdict. “This one’s holding up pretty good. A wash would help, maybe get the supplies organized.” The kids rush for the sponge. Hands run gently over me, caressing, just lightly, neatening up the pencils, categorizing artwork, erasing stains and old slights like magic.
At dinner, they gather lovingly around me. Every stray drop of marinara sauce is a gift, every breadcrumb a blessing. They proudly examine their work, and nobody scratches me with their forks even once. I think they love me again. Maybe they always have.