What is it about a new car, a new outfit, or acquiring some other material possession that makes us so instinctively protective of its condition when we first buy it, yet so utterly dismissive of those same concerns once it begins serving its full utility?
For instance, let’s say you purchase a new car. For the first few months, the vehicle receives the royal treatment. You’re careful where you park. You avoid dropping food or drink on the upholstery. But once that first beer gets sloshed all over the front seat, or some idiot dings the side panel with his swinging car door in a grocery store parking lot, the car is blemished forever. From that point forward, it’s treated as part of your life’s key chain.
So, why aren’t we as protective of older things? After all, shouldn’t possessions that have served us well deserve more tender-loving care?
There’s a new movie out now. It’s called “Still Mine.” Wonderfully written and directed by Michael McGowan, there’s a beautifully shot scene late in the film which bears reflection here. Without divulging much, I’d like to tell you about the scene because it’s magnificent.
The lead character, played by actor James Cromwell sits down at the family’s big dining table made of oak. He ponders his fate. After all the years, that table remains quite an imposition. Cromwell looks down at the grains in the wood. He begins to think back and remembers all the family gatherings around the table — holiday dinners, card games, life altering decisions that were made in the dining room. He reminisces about a time very long ago when the table was new. He recalled how careful everyone was around the table not to damage it. But gradually over the years, the inevitable scratches and dents added up and now nearly a lifetime later, the table rests where it’s been all that time, now full of blemishes.
Oddly enough, those blemishes are what makes the table special. It’s no longer flawless. But within each of those many imperfections are moments in the lives of those he cares about most. His fingers pass slowly across the table and into a crevasse, something that probably upset him 35 years earlier when the wood became dented. Now, that same indentation is a cherished memory.
I think people are a lot like that dining room table. We all become weathered over time. Some of more so than others. Some of us more so than we would like. Lines in our faces beguile the joys and sorrows of the past. Scars and bruises remind us of dangers we overcame and odds that were beaten.
Within us all isn’t perfection, but rather innumerable imperfections. Some qualities — things like foreign accents, battle scars, crows feet, a few extra pounds, whatever — shouldn’t really concern us much. They are what gives us our identity. They are what gives our lives our fondest experiences. They are what makes each of us unique.