My dining room table isn’t antique, but it is forty years old. This is a very important piece of furniture to me, more than any other. My dining room table was made by Pennsylvania House. It is composed of cherry wood and the top is oval, it has Queen Anne legs. It will seat ten people comfortably, twelve is cozy, and fourteen is elbow to elbow. Since I am not a fan of a “kids” table; when seated, we are all very much together.
The importance of having a dining room table came because of summers spent at my Aunt Helen’s house in Greeley Colorado. I was fortunate, because I had a standing invitation to visit every summer.
I was from Chicago, my mom worked and my dad wasn’t around much.
Often our meal was spent in front of the television so we didn’t have much conversation either.
When summer came and school was out, I boarded the California Zephyr to Greeley, Colorado, my summertime home. My aunt and cousins were there waiting for the train that dropped me off near the stock yards where the cattle odor was in the air. Ah, summer.
My aunt and uncle had four children. I settled in for my stay and was treated just like I was one of them; no special privileges. We had chores to do everyday before play. I know that we drove Aunt Helen crazy most of the time. She had a fun sense of humor though, I loved being there.
One of my chores made a lasting impression on me; I was to set the dining room table every evening for dinner. Nothing fancy but this is where I learned the fork on the left, and the knife and spoon on the right. Sometimes we would put a bowl of roses from Aunt Helen’s garden in the center of the table. There was lots of commotion and chatter. I loved being with the family at dinner time.
My mom and dad were old school. While we didn’t eat at the table much, when we did, I was expected to use my table manners. I was taught that manners were important. I was reminded to sit up straight. For sure no elbows were allowed on the table, and absolutely no talking with my mouth full! I always used a napkin, and most of the time I said “please”, “thank you” and “may I”. Finally, I was instructed to ask permission to be excused from the table when I finished eating.
I wanted to always feel welcome at Aunt Helen’s table, so I brought my best manners with me. I recall one time when this was a tall order. If we didn’t eat what was on the plate, we didn’t get dessert. So, I was forced to eat a pearl onion. I sat for a while gathering my will staring at what looked like an eyeball. Finally, I closed my eyes and swallowed the darn thing. The apple pie was worth it!
Another memory is of my uncle George. Sitting at the head of the table, he would always ask, “please, pass the spuds”, (I doubt if many kids today know what a spud is). Everyone came to the dining table to tell of their day, how the jobs went, how was school? What was the latest town news? This was a place for discussion.
I wanted that. I wanted a table where everybody gathered and ate and talked. So, when it came time for my husband, Buck, and me to buy a home, we made sure we had a dining room with a table large enough to hold our family.
I enjoy my memories of forty years at our table. There were and still are birthday parties, wedding showers, graduations, and family dinners at Christmas and yes, the sad times too.
I feel badly for families today. Cell phones interrupt conversations at our tables. Work and sports take up valuable family time. It appears to be a rare occurrence that a family gathers together for meals and visits. The table isn’t a place to scold or criticize, but rather to enjoy each other’s company and to encourage and show respect. Yes, and to learn to say “please” and “thank you.”
I love dressing up my table. I use a table cloth, candles, good dishes and a pretty center piece. It just gives me a lift and I enjoy doing it for my family, who live in a generation where most never had the opportunity to say, “Please, pass the spuds.”
Webster’s definition of spud is a potato. Betty