Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Patio Tables, Part 1

This is part 1 of two posts about a pair of patio tables my parents bought in the 1960s or early ’70s: Repainting them was one of my summertime projects this year! So first, a little walk down memory lane. As far as I can tell, this is at least their sixth refurbishment since about 1970.

I’ve found some pictures of them in my parents’ photo albums, so you can have glimpses of their former incarnations.

I love these tables, though maybe they’re not the best design for lawn furniture. There’s a small lip along the edge, so they tend to collect water. They’re slightly top-heavy on their tripod legs, so in strong winds they tend to tip over, banging the edges on whatever concrete or patio bricks they’re on. And they’re steel, so they rust.

But I like them. First, they’re not plastic! Woo-hoo! Second, they’re the perfect size for holding a cold beverage plus a book, or a hardcopy printout of that chapter or bibliography you have to edit. That’s how my dad used them on the patio beneath our back porch.

Third, at this point, they’re “vintage,” thus cool. Dialing back, I think their first paint job was white—flat white. Or maybe that was their second paint job. I wonder how they came from the factory? Soon after, Mom dressed ’em up by putting Peanuts (Charlie Brown, Snoopy, et al.) decals on them. See?

As a kid, I loved those Peanuts decals! Mom’s putting them on the tables was a brilliant idea! We all loved Peanuts! (And I liked to paint with watercolors beneath the shade of a lawn chair! Hard to imagine I was ever that small . . .)

By the time I was well into elementary school, Mom had stripped off the decals, sanded off the rust that had accumulated, and given them a nice coating of hot orange-red Rust-Oleum. (Remember, it was the seventies.) At some point, she (or maybe we kids) added a bunch of stickers to decorate them.

The tables were starting to acquire rust again by the time I was in junior high and high school, and by then I’d discovered the fun of enamel paints. (My folks gave me some “beautification projects” to do.) So I’d had a little practice using Rust-Oleum in a creative way.

In ninth grade geometry class, Miss Avery had provided us (for fun) a dittoed handout showing a variety of super-cool geometric designs. I think she was trying to remind us that there were actual creative applications to mathematics, that it wasn’t all just proofs, apothems, and other headaches. (Hooray for teachers who keep in mind that some students are simply more interested in other subjects, and who make an effort to connect their subject to other fields!)

So my parents invited me to do a new paint job on the tables. Being a smarty-pants overachiever (or an obsessive little nerd, I don’t know which), I looked through the designs from Miss Avery (which I had saved—okay, more evidence for the “nerd” category) and selected one that seemed easy enough, though it was intricate. It was really just a series of concentric circles expanding by equal radial increments, overlain with a series of parallel lines intersecting them. Alternate boxes are in contrasting colors, like a chessboard. (It’s been called a “circular chessboard.”) I painted it in Rust-Oleum paints: a bright blue (almost a cyan), and a bright red. It scintillated!

I put a lot of work into it, using the fine paintbrushes I used on my model cars (oops, more evidence of nerdiness!) and even toothpicks to nudge the paint into the narrow, pointy corners, and to touch up the many, many places where paint blurped over my penciled outlines. (The lines had to be absolutely precise in that design, or it wasn’t gonna work.) It took a lot of patience!

It was a masterpiece when it was done! Fortunately, my parents let me keep it in my room as part of my indoor furniture, or that paint job wouldn’t have lasted the ca. 15 years that it did. The one picture I could find of it shows it in my bedroom in 1982 or 1983, in front of my aquarium, with Katie perched on it in order to view the fishes better. (Awww, Katie, what a sweet little girl!)

Then a lot of time passed. I was at college, then went to Arizona for graduate school, then to Montana for my first publishing job. By the time I was back in Missouri and Sue and I had moved to Jeff City, my folks had let us have the tables. We’d been using that table and its twin outdoors again, and they’d received some dings and gotten rusty and needed a new paint job.

So most recently, I just sprayed it: All red. (Yawn!) We painted its twin with a yellow center in a gradient to red edges. Still pretty boring. I’m kind of glad we kept them outside, where they collected rain, acquired some blackish mildew, got dinged, and developed rust spots . . . and finally needed another new paint job!

. . . And my next post will show pictures of their new incarnations!

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