There was once a ping-pong table that lived in my apartment. It moved in on July 11, 2014 and for almost two years, it took up an entire room. It was the big room – the one with the four windows that look out onto Main Street. The one with the beautiful light that makes the hardwood floors glow (and also highlights the copious amounts of pet hair hiding in corners and under couches no matter how much I vacuum). For almost two years, the ping-pong table was the center of the apartment. I probably rearranged at least 50% of my apartment to accommodate it. Parties revolved around it. My cat Patrick thought it was a volley ball court. The television was tiny and tucked away into the little room, the one that comes off the kitchen and at that time had only one couch and one chair so there wasn’t a place for everyone to sit if we were watching a movie; but it didn’t matter, because everyone was in the ping-pong room anyhow – watching matches, mixing drinks at the bar, talking, laughing.
It came to me from the garage of my former roommate’s twin brother. It moved in with us on a warm summer day and kept us entertained through the long cold stretches of winter when the light disappears at 4:30. Patrick (the roommate, not the cat) was surprised when I said “yes” to the idea of a ping-pong table. I will admit that I was worried that it might turn the apartment into a frat house. That the aesthetic I had carefully been cultivating might suddenly lose itself to kegs of Natty Light and epic beer pong tournaments, posters of Bob Marley and The Grateful Dead taped to the walls, and a lava lamp pulsating purple in the corner (full disclosure: I’ve been in one frat house my entire life and can’t remember any details except a fight breaking out on the front lawn and that I lasted a total of 5 minutes before leaving so I’m not really sure if that is an accurate description of a frat house).
Now the ping-pong table is gone. Patrick (the roommate, not the cat) is gone. Properly grown-up and moved in with his gorgeous girlfriend, whom he recently convinced to say “yes” (not to a ping-pong table, but to a lifetime with him). And the ping-pong table has been replaced by two couches and a big but still tasteful television (my brother’s words when he gave it to me for my birthday last year and I protested its size). My boyfriend has moved in along with a crazy dog and at times, three children who start at ten and end at nineteen. There are slumber parties with preteen girls talking until well after midnight it what had been a spare room, but is now Mia’s room (and my cat Talulah’s when she needs to hide from Ella, the dog). I make lemon ricotta pancakes on Saturday mornings and wake up early on days when I used to sleep in, because it’s hard to sleep in with giggling girls who need breakfast. I finally started framing the street art I’ve bought on my travels over the years. There’s a lot of Rick & Morty on my television set. I’ve learned to substitute “my” with “our,” but I sometimes forget.
Sometimes I miss the ping-pong table. Or, if I’m being truthful, I sometimes miss my life when I had a ping-pong table in it. There’s more responsibility now. More pet hair. More noise. More coats hanging up in the narrow hallway. More toothbrushes next to the bathroom sink (seriously, the number of toothbrushes doesn’t make any sense). When I’m sitting on the couch, book in hand or laptop turned on, maybe a cat or two nearby (unless Ella is home and then they’re hiding somewhere), I sometimes look around and think, “How did I get here?”
Not that this isn’t a good place to be – there are storm windows now and it’s warm, dare I say cozy, as the snow falls down, turning North Creek into a postcard. There’s currently a white pine Christmas tree Joe cut down in the woods just waiting to be decorated. I’ll be happy with just the lights and accept the fact that Ella keeps taking the ornaments off the tree. Maybe we’ll decorate next year’s tree.
It seems to be a matter of learning how to be nostalgic without regretful. Missing one thing – or one way of life – while still being happy with the current situation. And it is the season of nostalgia as family traditions combine to become something different and new, but equally special.