Closing Time: Childhood Memories And The Pool Table


By Ken Szymanski | September 22, 2017

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Selling the family house is hard. So many memories tied to a specific place and time. For Ken Szymanski, it was the house and the pool table where he and his brothers had spent so much time.

The pool table weighed over 700 pounds. It was the only thing in the house not going anywhere.

After 41 years, we were selling my childhood home. My father had passed away. My mother was moving to an assisted living facility. In the meantime, we had a cold, practical question: What do we do with all of their stuff? We each took a few mementos, but my four older brothers and I didn’t need anymore “stuff.” Nor did we want a depressing, drawn-out thrift sale. We needed to get the house on the market quickly, and we didn’t want to miss a potential buyer by squandering time selling knickknacks—only to donate the sad leftovers in the end.

So we took what we wanted and decided to donate the rest to the Hope Gospel Mission Bargain Center—except the pool table. It was the only thing that set our house apart from the rest of the one-story houses on our street. Our basement was nothing special—cement walls, a toilet behind a curtain—but when my brothers had their friends over, the place turned into a smoky pool hall. I played with toys on the floor. They circled the table, lip-synching to the classic rock on the stereo and playing air solos on pool cue guitars. One guy showed me a trick, blowing smoke through his nose like a dragon, right past the handlebars of his Fu Manchu.

In the 1980s, I became the teenager with friends over, recreating a smoke-free version of the same scene. Not that the table didn’t see some years of neglect. It did, but legends find a way to come back.

But this looked like the end. Lacking the space in our adult lives, all of us wanted someone else to take the pool table.

The next best thing would be for it to stay with the house. Legend: Nontransferable.

The Hope Gospel guys came and loaded everything into their truck—with alarming efficiency—glancing at the pool table as the only thing left. We explained that it was too heavy and would be staying with the house. “Got a Phillips screwdriver?” he asked. A few screws, a pull strap, and six of us pushing and heaving up the narrow staircase…and ten minutes later, it was in the moving truck. He slid the door down and swung the latch shut. “God bless you guys,” he said, and they drove off, leaving us with an empty house.

We stood and made small talk, before leaving to our adult homes, scattering like billiard balls to separate pockets.

* * *

Five years later, we’re out at the bar—a rare night out together. Both Mom and Dad have passed on now, but we aren’t here to mourn. Our nephew’s getting married soon, and we take him around downtown before settling in at The Mousetrap:  a homey, well-worn bar with a pool table in the back. We rack ‘em up. Some of us still have the skills from years of basement billiards; some of us look like amateurs. So there’s plenty of heckling and plenty of belly laughs.

Closing time is coming sooner than we’d like, but we’ve got cues in hand, mugs all around, and classic rock on the jukebox. Tonight, with the smack of the cue ball on the break, we’re home. 

Ken Szymanski

Ken Szymanski teaches English at South Middle School in Eau Claire.
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2018-02-10T23:10:03+00:00 Tags: , , , |

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