We’ve been half-heartedly searching for a new kitchen table for months.
Our old one (visible in this instagram shot) was truly terrible, not for how it looks, but for how it functions. The table was literally somebody else’s junk: my parents’ old tenants left it behind when they moved out of their rental house, because it wasn’t worth moving. I don’t remember how it ended up in our old basement, but it spent a good 5+ years there, buried under craft supplies.
We weren’t planning on moving it to the new house—it was destined for Goodwill, if not the dumpster—but at the last minute decided to use it as a stand-in for the new IKEA table we planned to pick up within weeks of the move. The new table was a top 5 priority.
But we soon discovered our space was just a little too snug to accommodate the table I’d picked out, and finding one that worked was tough. My casual searches didn’t turn up anything that was the right size, the right style, and the right price.
Now that we’ve been in our house five months, I was more than ready to cross this item off the list. (Top 5 priority—ha!)
I didn’t like our kitchen table, but Will hated it with a fiery passion. He was in Seattle for business last week, and I wanted to surprise him with a new one when he got home. (Not everyone likes that kind of surprise, but he hates making house decisions even more than I do: he just wanted it done.)
So for weeks, I looked and I looked and I looked, and found … nothing.
I called off the intensive search. We’d keep an eye on craigslist, or build our own if we had to. (Shudder.)
But then our electricity went out Friday night, and the kids and I made an impromptu Trader Joe’s run so we wouldn’t have to open the fridge.
We found a parking spot in front of the newish furniture store next door. I’d noticed it before, and the cottage-meets-modern pieces they set out on the sidewalk to lure you in.
Just inside the open door, they had a round wooden table that looked just the right size, painted a cheerful Mediterranean blue.
I pulled the kids inside. We confirmed it was the right size and within budget, and I texted photos to my friends with great taste. They approved, and on Saturday, I went back to buy it.
The table is all set up and we’re all really happy with it—even my husband (he’s home—yay!) and my child who fears change. It’s not practically perfect in every way, and it could use a glass top, but it’s 400x better than the old one, and that’s good enough for me.
The irony doesn’t escape me, but it no longer surprises me. This is far from the first time I’ve found the perfect (enough) thing when I wasn’t looking, maybe even because I wasn’t looking.
One of my mom’s rules of life is that you can’t force a shopping trip: great dresses stubbornly appear only when you don’t need them. You have to buy them anyway, because when the time comes when you actually need one you won’t be able to find one in the racks.
And I have a half-dozen friends who met their significant others at a time when they’d sworn off dating. They said they were done … and then they met someone who made them change their mind.
Maybe this is just one of the laws of the universe, like Murphy. But I’m tempted to think there’s logic behind it, as well as serendipity. When we’re looking for a table, we see tables. Lot and lots of tables, to evaluate and compare, and ultimately choose from those options.
But I wonder if our bar is higher when we’re not looking. We have to like the table (in my case) well enough to let it seize our attention, interrupt our day, pull us into the store, and inspire us to negotiate moving it home on the weekend I’m single parenting. That’s a table worth pursuing, and one I’ll (knock on wood!) be happy with.
Do you find the best stuff when you’re not looking? I’d love to hear your examples, and your theories about why it works.