Sometimes it’s hard to let go of something that’s precious to you.
I slide my hand along the smooth top of the dining table, admiring its dark wood grain. It’s one of those tables that can seat just two or be extended out to accommodate a large group. As a child, watching my parents pull the table apart and insert the extension leaves always fascinated me. How magical it was to have a table that could change sizes!
Mom and Dad would then discuss whether the ends needed to come out farther, then they’d walk slowly around it with a critical eye. Satisfied that it was the perfect size, in just the right place, Mom would then carefully place the protective pads on its surface.
When the table was pulled out to its maximum length, I knew this would call for one of our special linen tablecloths. Mom always complained about how much trouble they were to clean, yet time and again they would make their appearances.
This dining table has been in our family for many years—before my sister and I were born—and all those who pulled up chairs to one of our many feasts have become older or passed on. My mind starts to wander as I see their spirits float in and take their usual places.
Mom, her sister, Pat, and Grandma are all bustling around in the kitchen. We kids have strict instructions to stay out of their way, so we amuse ourselves by stealing black olives from the crystal bowl that’s set on the table.
As I pull out one of the chairs and slowly seat myself in a reverie, I can smell the Thanksgiving turkey roasting in the oven, and then the prime rib we’d always have for Christmas. The Easter ham scent wafts in followed by a summer barbecue with delicious spare ribs.
Dad and Uncle Vic would be on the couch enjoying strong martinis and talking about some boring adult topics. When dinner is called, they each take one of the chairs at either end of the table, with the rest of us filling in the middle seats.
Holidays and birthdays would find our extended family, and occasionally friends, all gathered here around this table.
My sister and I love to remember the time she brought her then-boyfriend, Wayne, to meet our folks for the first time. The table was set for a welcoming dinner that included a platter of baked potatoes. Poor Wayne was a bit nervous and was trying to make a good impression, so Dad decided to ease the tension in a rather unique way.
Standing by the table, he suddenly called out, “Wayne! Go out for the pass!” He snatched up one of the large potatoes and threw it at Wayne, who was standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room. Unaccustomed to having potatoes being flung at him, Wayne fumbled and missed the flying tuber, which then continued on its way into the kitchen before thudding into a counter with a loud whump.
We all froze as we heard Mom’s voice raise. “What is going on out there? Who threw a potato into the kitchen? I’d better not see any more of this nonsense!”
But it was too late. Our pre-dinner drinks had suddenly created a group of mischievous imps, and more potatoes started to fly back and forth. Fortunately, each one found its intended target after being neatly caught in mid-air. Despite the jolly atmosphere that now pervaded the room, Mom did not find this flying food exchange as funny as the rest of us did.
And it served its purpose. Wayne was welcomed into our family, and he married my sister nearly forty years ago. Their children also found their places at our table.
Then there was the Night of the Evil Mallard Twins. Have you ever seen those brass bookends that are shaped like a duck’s head? After probably a bit too much wine, those metal duck heads became the stars of their own story.
Two of my old friends had joined us for the traditional Easter ham fest that fateful night. Paul and Cindy had become as close as family and often found themselves sharing meals at our extended dinner table.
I don’t know how we got on the subject of the brass bookends, but I think Paul started it. We were sitting next to each other and began creating a ridiculous story of how the bookends were really evil mallard twins in disguise out to do dastardly deeds to unsuspecting victims. I suddenly remembered seeing a pair of those things in my dad’s study.
I dashed upstairs and grabbed the brass bookends and brought them down for everyone to see what we were talking about. By now, Paul and I were laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe. I don’t think anyone else thought our fantastic tale was as hilarious as we did, but that didn’t matter to us because we were living so happily in the moment. It was just one of those things you might do under the influence of some good vino and good company.
As I continued to watch the figures in my dreamlike state, one by one they faded and vanished. First, it was Grandma, then her daughter, my Aunt Pat. Dad was next, then Mom, then Uncle Vic. Paul left us way too early. Others have moved away, and I am here on my own.
The old family dining table has remained unextended for over ten years now. It’s from another time, and I’m now contemplating letting it go. It’s not really taking up space, but know I won’t be using it anymore. Everything is much more casual these days. When I have guests over for dinner, we are happy to sit in the kitchen.
As the scenes fade, I stand up and carefully push the chair back in. I feel a little sad that we’ve come to the end of the line, but I know it’s time for me to let it go.
My dining table is still in great condition, and I hope it goes to a nice family. May others now take their seats around it and start creating their own precious memories.