If Memories Were Picnics
A writing prompt
The garden crowded round, almost hiding it from view, but Mhairi had not forgotten. If it could speak, what stories it would tell: of summer days and summer picnics, no doubt. But these were not her memories. They belonged to some other time, some other family. The table had always been there. It was old when she was young. Neglected and forgotten, it endured where those who spread their food upon it had not.
Pulling the long grass and weeds that stood between her and it’s dark, weathered wood, she cleared the bench that served it and sat down. Memories flooded in unbidden: her father throwing still warm carcasses upon it, skinning rabbits and hares with more pleasure than was seemly; her mother flirting with her lover across the wooden slats, as though a child of six or seven would have no notion of what was in play; lonely picnics with dolls and teddies instead of playmates, marigold food on rose petal plates.
Stretching her arms flat across the table’s width, Mhairi lowered her head and wept. One memory surpassed all others. One summer day when she was eight and he was eleven, their last day together, a picnic of stale bread and cheese, ‘A banquet fit for a king,’ he’d said, thanking her for what she’d managed to steal from the pantry.
Her tears fell on the old, gnarled surface of the table, making tiny pools of mud in the dust. Using the sleeve of her coat, she scrubbed at them, revealing the grey grain of the wood. It had aged well, better than one could have expected in the Scottish climate, but it had been wisely placed in the shelter of a towering sycamore tree, hedged around by rhododendron bushes. Even on dreich, wet, winter days the table was dry, a great place to bide out the storm. In summer, it’s situation afforded shade from the noonday sun.
When she wiped the debris of too many autumns from the end of the table that had been swallowed by the bushes, her fingers found the crude carvings of that childhood summer. M & B. No heart wreathed the initials: it was not a declaration of love, but a statement of friendship. They were but children, after all.
All of life, this table had witnessed, and death.