Sunday, March 4, 2007

What a Dining Room Table Means to Me - An Essay by Gretchen

We have been married nine years this June. In that time, we have been burdened with a fantastic quest; in truth in recent years, the quest seemed rather endless and we really despaired of ever seeing it through.

What was this Holy Grail of ours?

To find the perfect dining room table.

Not something that would "pass" or with which we could just "make do" until, magically like manna from the sky I suppose, some other table would drop in front of us ~ but a table that was at once perfect and useable, upscale and family friendly, modern and traditional ... something we want until we are 95, something that our kids can crayon all over and our family can gather around for holidays and feasts and Tuesday night soup. The kind of table that makes you want to sit a little longer; drink another glass of wine, and never, ever say "Let's go sit on comfortable chairs, eh?"

We found it. And on Saturday it was delivered.

A dining room table (and of course matching buffet, hutch, arm chairs, etc.) is one of those pieces of furniture that can make you feel pretty elderly. Truthfully. We danced around the living room singing, "We're so old!"

I mean really, the things are so solid ~ and you never really get rid of a great dining room table. Like family at the holidays, it's there to stay and its residence can be obnoxious or endearing and beloved.

We think we've got a winner.

Now, this is not to suggest that we have eaten on the floor or at a card table for nine years. The table we have used lo' these many years belonged to the Grandmother of Jack Fish. And it has a story that illustrates the point; if a table can set a bar - Grandma Fish's table came with an excellent pedigree ~ our new table has much to live up to.

I taught with Jack at Milwaukee Lutheran. He was in his late forties when he decided to return to Seminary, and he and his wonderful wife packed up their home and headed for a small apartment in St. Louis. Grandma's table went to a pair of newlyweds (along with the Fish's washer/dryer) and the Fish's went on to a new life. We were so thrilled. It came with chairs and everything. It was enormous and in need of refinishing (who has time, I cried ~ let's paint it to match our funky earthy dining room!) and the chairs were in quite a state. But it's served us well.

I love Grandma's table. I never knew this woman, but having gathered around her family table for nines years I feel a bit of an affinity towards her. And really ~ what a table. For starters, it is absolutely enormous. It has this fantastic leaf that actually folds right into the table (a neat trick our new table doesn't do ~ and we now have a leaf in our front closet). The pedestal underneath is large enough for a toddler to sit on comfortably (and most of you know this is important because there is nothing quite as cool as a fort under a solid, fortress like dining table). There's a story with this table, it has a sense of history. Apparantly, Grandma wasn't this table's first owner, either. And the insane thing is, the table doesn't shimmy or shake, it's as solid as the day it was constructed. Amazing.

I wanted a new table that was as enduring as Grandma Fish's table. I want a table that has potential to have a story.

And now we have one. And it's extremely exciting.

I suppose this makes me ancient, or just really, really odd. Getting all jazzed about a dining room set (well, that and I just voluntarily used the word "jazzed") but it's so much bigger than a table. It's about permanence and family ties and communal times to come.

So, we'll get back with you in a few years to let you know how she's holding up. In the meantime, I'm headed for the crayons ...