around the dinner table last night~
Potato latkes (pancakes), black bean, corn, and avocado salsa with corn chips, chopped broccoli salad, and a super good apple upside down cake that Keith made.
I love my kitchen table. It's been a big part of my life. When I was first married and really poor, all we had was a card table. Soon after, my mom gave us the table that I grew up on. I think my parents got it after our family had moved to Heber. That would have been almost 35 years ago. It's a dark brown colonial style trestle table with long benches on the sides. It's great that it has leaves that can shorten or expand to fit different needs. It's a type of table that is classic and really fits in my decorating scheme. Maybe my decorating "scheme" was formed from my sub-conscious love of this table. The benches are worn and have an "antiqued" look with scars and marks from shoes and knives. At one time I thought that maybe it would be nice to have something new and updated, but I know that this table means so much to me, has so many memories tied to it, and has taught me so much that there is no way I could ever part with it. It is a treasure to me.
Let me tell you about some memories I have of this table when I was growing up. I remember walking home from the old North school for lunch when I was in the first grade and eating Bean and Bacon soup and drinking milk my mom set out for me. I remember sitting around the table laughing at our Brazilian foreign exchange student, Louis, talking about "cutting the cheese" and how funny he thought that expression was. I remember coming home from school so many times and seeing my mom cutting out fabric for the clothes, pajamas, and dolls she made for all of us. Getting a "talking to" from my parents when I hit the teenage years, all the wonderful meals that we enjoyed that my mom would fix. My favorites were the "meat and potato" kinds, like beef strogonoff, mashed potatoes and gravy, and spaghetti and meatballs. I didn't get too excited about "soup dinners". I liked something "substantial", as my mom would say.
We squeezed all of us kids around the table with one of the babies in the highchair off to the side. Sitting on a hard bench was sometimes uncomfortable (especially during Dad's notorious long prayers) and sometimes we got bumped with each other's knees and feet. Dad sat at the head, mom to his left and I to his right. I remember that as my spot. Maybe someone will argue that, but I have clear picture in my mind of dad's plate. There were always matching, clean placemats on that table, with milk always poured in the glasses at dinner- maybe water on Sundays. Mom didn't believe in serving out of the pan; everything always looked beautiful and was presented as if company were coming. I appreciate that now, knowing it's not easy and often unappreciated little things that make the ordinary, everyday meals special. I think my mom took pride in that and it was a way for her to create beauty. I guess my mom thought we were just as special as guests.
I'll never forget a lesson that I learned from my mom that has to do with this table. Like I told you, my mom was a meticulous house keeper and one of my jobs after every meal was to "grease the table". That meant that I would go to the hall closet and get a rag that had lemon furniture polish on it (it was stored in a worn out plastic bag and I'll never forget the smell) and then I'd scoot off the centerpiece and table runner onto the bench and proceed to polish that table. I would use all my upper body strength to form shiny connected lines, back and forth all across.
When I was in Mr. Olsen's 4th grade class at Northridge elementary, I either snuck out of the house without doing my "greasing" job after breakfast or I had come home for lunch, I can't remember. Anyway, I vividly remember sitting at my desk, probably coloring Utah's dinosaurs or something, and I heard a knock on the door. I looked up and saw my mother standing there, motioning with her finger for me to come over to her. She had a look that meant business. Oh, how embarrassed and mortified I was when she whispered, "You forgot to grease the table". I was so put out, I could hardly stand it. I couldn't believe she would come all the way to the school just to make me grease that blasted table.
As I look back on that experience, I can see that my mother wasn't really concerned with the way that the table looked as much as she was trying to build my character. She taught me a lesson I'll never forget. Dependability, work, and honesty...
I rarely grease the table now (maybe once or twice a year) and that's okay with me. I have realized that I'm different from my mom. This kitchen table has also been used as a "desk" in our home for all of the children. Playdough "snakes" formed by preschoolers, countless watercoloring and drawings, endless math and writing assignments, messy paper mache and dissections of mammal body parts- including the sheep's brain that rolled onto the floor. From building Iroquois long houses to worm farms to Nile river models, this table has seen it all.
Extended family dinners, Family Night game times, birthday parties, sewing work station, pumpkin carving, candlelight dinners with friends, disastrous missionary dinners, (burned chili, cranberry juice bursting out of my laughing mouth and nose plus a knocked over glass all happening at the same meal) endless breakfasts, lunches, and dinners... all these things have nourished and enriched my soul and they start and end with this wonderful table.