All too often in our culture the old is not respected or valued at all. Everyone wants the new, modern, current and latest things. They are not always the best, though! The table is a perfect example.
Back in the war years, and the latter half of the nineteen forties, young couples did not start out expecting a spiffy new house full of new furniture and the latest gadgets. There were not a lot of gadgets then anyway, but you could not afford them on starting salaries and credit was not too widely available. Most first or second homes were furnished with extras and hand-me-downs from parents or older siblings who might have gotten to the point of acquiring some new or better stuff.
My parents were no exception. They furnished the first house I recall with a motley assortment of odds and ends from Dad’s family home and perhaps some they’d picked up in the first four years of their marriage. We never did have a couch or sofa and only one stuffed chair in the living room that normally served other purposes as well.
One piece I do remember was the table we used for a dining table for several of my early years. It was not large, maybe about two feet by three or so, wooden legs and a white enameled metal top. The top would bounce sometimes if you set a heavy dish on it or removed one but I do not recall anything falling off, at least. Dad had a sturdy wooden chair on one side and mom had a wooden chair opposite him, but of a different design. I was stuck in a high chair for longer than I felt appropriate but finally got a regular seat of my own, actually more of a bench or stool. It had a low back like it might belong in front of a vanity but it worked. In time that scene changed,
There is a Christmas pictures from about 1950, before my first brother was born, where a fancy machine appears beside the Christmas tree along side my collection of goodies. It was called a “Shop Smith” and was a combination tool that could be a saw, lathe, planer and drill. I am not sure if it was Dad’s Christmas present but I guess it was although I think he had bought it himself. That elaborate machine was the source of many future projects, stocks for guns, outdoor effects and furniture.
One that sticks in my mind was The Table. Yes, I capitalize the name because it was special and became the center of our eat-in kitchen when it was completed. Dad built stout--always. I used to joke that you could operate on an injured horse on that table without a quiver. The trestle style table had 2 x 12 planks for its top and legs of 2 x 6 boards, more nearly timbers! Dad planed and sanded them silky-smooth and applied many coats of varnish so it would be water proof. The bolts that held the top to the legs were countersunk and each hole carefully filled with a round dowel which was also sanded smooth so the top was flat and nearly perfect. It was a massive thing of beauty.
By then my first brother had been born and was about to graduate from that hated old high chair also. We needed more space around the table with four people to sit there. The new one was just short of three feet wide and about five feet long. By this time, we had moved from Jerome down to Clarkdale. The kitchen in that house was roughly square as were all the four main rooms. In one corner there was a bit of cupboard and a sink. The opposite wall held the 220 outlet where the electric range was plugged in. In the northwest corner by the door to my room, we put the freezer and as I recall, the fridge sat not far from the stove.
Once the new table was placed in service, August 4, 1955, the old one was retired, perhaps used as work space since counter space was limited. There was a pantry near the back door and all non-perishable food was stored there. It also had a small counter area that served to prepare things. I made a lot of cookies and biscuits there in my teen years, but I digress. This is the story of The Table.
Over the years that table become a love/hate object to me. While it was the site of many pleasant and happy family dinners, birthday cakes, and good conversations, the place where any guests gathered to drink coffee and talk, and one of the nicest pieces of furniture in our house, some bad memories also rapidly accrued.
My seat, still that low backed bench, was in the right rear corner, since the table was placed with one end against the south wall and the window onto the back porch. That put my back almost against the sink and the one cupboard beside it which made it difficult to get in and out. I could not just jump up and leave but had to edge my way clear. Thus I ended up being a captive while I was subjected to many seemingly endless lectures and tirades as the years went by and more things went wrong, finances became worrisome and dad’s health, both physical and mental, declined.
I cannot count how many hours I sat there, knowing there were necessary chores to be done to take care of the livestock we had then acquired that would now be late. Knowing, too, that I would rather be any place in the world rather than there, a virtual prisoner. For a long time those painful memories all but obscured the good ones.
It was a huge relief when I finally left home, going off to college and thence to a life of my own. I came home some during the first year but the lectures were then mostly a thing of the past. I had made my break and established my independence, making my own way with scholarship and grant funds and no longer obliged to pay for my room and board in whatever manner was demanded—to include listening, willingly or not.
Finally the time came when the family left that home. For a time my parents and brothers were scattered about, before they managed to reunite. I was by then no longer an actual part of that circle. Much of the household goods ended up in storage where it stayed for a long time. For years I helped pay the fees for that so a few precious souvenirs and mementos would not be lost. Not until my dad passed away did Mom, the boys and I reclaim it all. Among the nearly-forgotten furnishings was The Table, a bit scarred now from being stowed in a warehouse and moved from one such location to another at least once, but still sturdy and whole.
It took its place in the mobile home where Mom lived until shortly before she passed away. Then it became the property of my youngest brother who had been at home until after Dad’s death and still came and went as he pursued his education. A bit later, it had a place of honor in the dining area in the home he proudly bought and moved in to after he got established in his legal career, just a matter of weeks before his untimely death from an aneurysm.
At that point, most of the old family things that remained came into my possession since I lived closer to him, both of us in southeastern
while the other brother was in .
The Table sat in my garage for awhile and then traveled with me to Colorado Hurley, NM, near ,
when I moved there for a few months in
the summer of 2008. It became my sewing
and project table there. Then it was back into storage with a lot of my other
things when I moved to Silver City
to become the pet and house sitter for my surviving brother in the spring of
Finally in October 2011, brother Charlie and I moved from
Springs to .
Once we got everything from Alamogordo, NM Colorado
unpacked—that move is a story in itself!-- we made the trip to
and got the things I had stored there. Yes, The Table was among them and it
soon became the center of our kitchen-dining room area. It is as sturdy as
ever, still proud despite some dings and dents. Still heavy too, I can vouch.
We struggled to get it inside! I wipe it down often to remove the dust from the
still shiny varnished top and we use placemats to protect it, also. I don’t
recall that happening long ago. Silver City
The painful memories are all but gone. I sit at nearly the same place I always did in reference to the table itself but I have a nice wooden chair now myself with my back to our second refrigerator which I consider more or less “mine.” I can come and go as I wish. Not only am I the “big sister,” I am also matriarch of the family and no one lectures me. Charlie sits at the end where Mom used to sit while in the place once occupied by Dad, there is usually no one unless we have a visitor.I do not know where The Table will end up once the two of us are gone since our step kids have no interest in or memories of it. It was not a part of either of our homes when they were there. Still, I hope someone will appreciate the stoutness and craftsmanship of this unique piece of furniture and enjoy it in years to come. It is already nearly an antique, dating back into the 1950s. May there be no bad memories made around it in those coming days. I may do an exorcism someday soon to be sure all traces of bad emotions are gone. That old table deserves the best fate possible.
I thought I had some photos of it but they seem to have been lost when I downloaded all files a few weeks back to recover from a computer crash. I will get some new ones. Anyway here is one peek.