Monday, October 12, 2015

The Old Dining Room Table

Just last night we had delivered to our home an old, slightly battered dining room table.  It arrived from its former residence in Wareham, Massachusetts.

It was a drop-leaf dining room table that my grandparents had made back in 1952 when they built their summer cottage on Cape Cod. 

At first, I imagine my grandparents only had to lift one leaf to make room for themselves and their two daughters. And then when my mother and her sister both married, the table had to be enlarged to include their husbands.

Eventually, my parents had four children and my aunt and uncle had five children.  Neither the table nor the cottage, for that matter, could handle that large a group, so each family started visiting my grandparents separately. 

My family had the last two weeks in August for our annual vacation to the Cape.  There we played in the ocean every day and each evening we moved that table, lifted the leaves on either side, and opened it up for my grandparents, parents, and the four of us children to fit around and eat our evening meal together.

There were countless family lobster-fests held at that dining room table with the table completely covered with lobsters and bowls of butter and platters filled with ears of corn on the cob.

And even if we got lost in the magic that is summer at the beach, we would always know it was Saturday because – without fail – we would be called to the table for dinner and there would be hot dogs, baked beans and coleslaw awaiting us. Well, the hot dogs were one clue; the other was that we had to attend the 6:30 Saturday evening Mass.  And that was without fail, too.

In the mornings, we weren’t quite as formal and usually ate breakfast in shifts, so both leaves of the table remained down.  Some of us would eat our toast or bowl of cereal out on the porch anxiously awaiting the moment when we were allowed to grab out towels and head to the beach.

I remember many years sitting at that table writing out postcards to friends. For years we’d watch Nanna writing out her grocery list while sitting at the table and then, years later after Nanna was no longer with us, we’d watch Mom handling the same chore.

And I can remember many evenings sitting around the table playing cards and board games with my sister and brothers. 

One year, when I was in college, I remember watching my grandmother, aunt and mother sitting around the table after dinner one night drinking Southern Comfort and getting a little silly and even, I dare say, a little tipsy. But later, whenever I’d mention the tipsy part to my mother, she’d get defensive and offended that I’d even make such an accusation.  But, c’mon.  I was in college by then.  I knew tipsy when I saw it.  Yet it’s a memory that makes me smile even today.

I imagine when the table was new, it was shiny and clean and unmarked.  And despite all attempts at protecting it with tablecloths and place mats, the decades have taken their toll on that old table and it is a little marred and a little less shiny now.

So when the time came to sell the cottage this summer, my elderly parents didn’t want the hassle of getting rid of the furniture, so they opted to sell the place “as is.”  My brother and I went up there in July to clean the cottage and clear out my parents’ personal belongings, but were leaving the furniture. 

When we met with the realtor, I told her that the one piece of furniture I’d like to have was that dining room table.  Knowing, of course, that it would never fit in my little red Audi, I wondered how I would get it to Ohio.

My brother thought he might return to the cottage for one last weekend with his wife and some friends later in the summer, and I knew that table would fit easily in his truck.  And it would have, but when it came to making the decision to revisit the cottage one last time, he decided that he’d already said his last goodbyes to the place, and he changed his mind.  So I thought I had lost my chance.

I was tempted to just let it go – much as we had let go of the cottage itself – but Vince convinced me that it was worth a couple hundred dollars to have the table shipped to us. 

And so, with the help of the realtor, we did just that. 

True, it’s not a valuable heirloom. It wouldn’t fetch thousands of dollars on that Antiques Roadshow program. And it would never be featured in a House Beautiful publication.

But that old, slightly battered dining room table is – to me – priceless.  I’ve walked by it a half a dozen times today and each time I do, I smile just looking at it.

I also smile knowing that I’m married to a caring husband who recognized the value of that scarred old table.  And I know that new memories will be made around that table. 

Even if it isn’t sitting in our dining room.  

And even if  we don’t eat hot dogs and baked beans and cole slaw every Saturday night.

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