THE TABLE AND LOVE
"Being loved is not a matter of life or death to the orphan.
It is more important than that."
--- Roger Dean Kiser, Sr.
July 2, 1999
One day a gentleman came to the orphanage and he talked with the head
office and they agreed to allow him to come in, every other week, and
teach the children how to do woodworking projects.
--- Copyright © 1991 --- Roger Dean Kiser, Sr.
I remember the night, when I was eight years old, when I finished my
first project. It was a small table with a formica top and I was so
proud of that table and I looked upon it as though I had created a life.
It was absolutely beautiful not to mention this was the first time in
our whole lives that the orphanage had allowed us to use our own minds.
It had taken me six weeks to complete my project and I could hardly wait
to give my little table to Mother Winters, as a gift.
Mother Winters was our head mistress, the administrator of our orphanage. We called all of
our female caretakers "Mother"--it was a title we used when talking to
them. As the table legs were not dry from the clear coating that had
been applied, the man asked us to wait until our next session before
taking our projects to our dormitories. But I was just so excited and
happy I couldn't wait. Besides, my woodworking project was the best one
of all. (Except for this full size row boat some ten year old nut was
trying to build.)
I moved my table toward the doorway and waited for the
right opportunity to escape. Then out the door I went like a flash,
running through the darkness with my little hands underneath the table
top, just smiling from ear to ear, as I headed toward the dormitory.
When I reached the dormitory I placed the beautiful little table beside
my bed and I just stood there for about ten minutes just looking at what
I had created with my own mind. Then Mother Winters entered the room. I
pointed at the table and she smiled at me and I felt so proud. She asked
me where the other children were and I told her that they were cleaning
up the sawdust and would be coming soon. She walked over to the table
and ran her hand across the slick formica top. "It is very pretty", she
When she touched the table leg she noticed that the leg was still wet
from the clear coating that I had brushed on eariler. She asked me why I
had brought the table into the dormitory with the legs still wet. I did
not know what to say, so I just stood there with my head down and I did
not say anything.
"Were you supposed to bring this home?" she asked.
"No ma'am," I told her.
Mother Winters walked over to the little table and with her foot, kicked
it over onto its top. Then she stepped onto each of the small table
legs, breaking them off. She then opened the side door and had me throw
the little table out into the yard.
After Mother Winters had left the building, and all the other children
were asleep, I opened the outside door and went out to get my little
table. There was sand stuck all over the legs. I brushed and cried, and
brushed and cried, and brushed and cried but the sand would not come
I hid the table in my closet and I never returned to the wood shop
after that, ever again. About a year later I gave the little table and
legs to Mother Henderson, my houseparent, so she could throw them away.
About thirty years later I tried to find as many of the orphanage
children as possible in order to have a reunion, which we had in
Jacksonville, Florida in 1991. That's when I learned that Mother
Henderson, was living in Asheville, North Carolina.
Several weeks later I drove up to see her and we visited and talked for about four or five
hours. As I was about to leave she asked me to come down to her basement
and help her get something important. So we climbed down into her dark,
cold, damp celler.
This shaking, seventy-five year old, woman walked
over into a dark corner and picked something up. As she turned around I
could see that she was holding a little table with four broken legs.
"Do you remember this?" she said.
I just stood there with my head down and I did not say a word. I could
not speak for fear of crying.
"Roger I want you to have this."
Mrs Henderson gave me back that table that so long ago I had given up
for lost. She had kept it all these years, never knowing if she would
ever see me again. Her intention was to save the table because she could
not rid herself of the pain she remembered seeing in this orphan's eyes.
My inscribed name that I had etched underneath the table was still
Since then, I have sanded, clear coated, and replaced the legs.
That little formica table--that was my first woodworking project so many
years ago--now sits in my grand-daughter Chelsey's bedroom, only a few
feet from where I sit now, along with her little plastic (sissy) chair
that her poppa gave her.
I look at that table today with bittersweet
memories. I think of my heartbroken disappointment of the time Mother
Winters forced me to throw my broken table out the door. But I am
comforted and rejoice at the kindness of Mother Henderson who kept that
little table as a remembrance--never wanting to forget the story of a
young orphan who tried so very hard to please.
Thank you, Mother Henderson.