Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Ping Pong Table

Breaking my grandparents' ping pong table is the worst thing I've ever done. At least that's what I say whenever anyone asks. I've done worse things by far on a moral level, but if I were to confess those in a random, lighthearted conversation, it would definitely kill the party.

It was a dumb thing to do really, breaking the ping pong table. My two sisters and I were always making up different games when we were kids. One of our favorites was called "Lava." In our imaginary world the floor had turned to lava and could no longer be touched, unless you wanted to be burned alive that is. So, to get around you had to climb on furniture or throw things on the ground to step on.

On this particular occasion we were staying over at my grandparents' house while my parents were out of town. Annie, my younger sister, and I climbed from the top of the couch to some books on the floor and then onto the ping pong table. We were both crawling across the table when suddenly it collapsed. We all looked at each other stunned. It had made a very loud crashing sound and the first thought that popped into my mind was that somebody must have heard it and we were going to be in big trouble. I quickly told the others to hide and Annie and I ran into the dark storage room to find a good spot. I squeezed in beside the old refrigerator and Annie ran over towards my grandpa's workshop. Corinne, my older sister, was smart enough to stay and face the music and kept her place next to the flattened ping pong table.

The next thing I heard was my Aunt Susan coming down the stairs. Realizing 2/3 of the responsible party was missing, she yelled for me and Annie to come out of hiding. My little seven or eight year old brain figured if I stayed put they'd never find me. Annie of course came out and they quickly spotted me. I don't remember even getting so much as a scolding except from Susan who told us that hiding was a bad idea.

We didn't really need to be punished though. I think we pretty much punished ourselves. We immediately climbed into the big bed in the basement and decided to go to sleep without dinner. It couldn't have been later than 6pm. I remember my sweet grandma coming down and asking us if we wanted to come eat dinner and take a bath. We tearfully said "no" insisting that we should go to bed. Then we asked her if she was going to tell our parents... to our surprise she said she'd let us choose whether we wanted to tell them or not. We never did. Neither did she.

My grandparents had always thrown a tablecloth over the ping pong table and used it for Thanksgiving dinner. This meant that they had to get the table fixed and did so on their own dime. Every Thanksgiving after that I was sure the table was going to collapse under the weight of all that food. It was torturous. I imagined the table crashing down and all the food being ruined and everyone pointing at us yelling, "YOU RUINED THANKSGIVING!"

It wasn't until about ten years later that to my surprise, my grandparents bought a new ping pong table. It was the best day of my life. I still don't think my parents know about that even 20 years later... but I'll let one of my sisters tell them.... I'm going to go hide over here by this refrigerator.


Rachel said...

I feel that Jung should have included the childhood game "lava" as part of the collective unconscious. I swear that every family of children came up with that game independently of each other.

heidi said...

This is an utterly RIVETING story! So much fodder for heart and imagination!
I suspect Rach is right; my husband and his sis played Lava, like constantly, when small! Think in their pjs, cuz they became "sailors" and the ground became "water" or something like that. Valuable things probably broke, too; another archetype!
luv, h