The Kitchen Table
by Jane D. O’Donoghue
We selected and ordered a round maple kitchen table with four captain’s chairs as we planned for our future home. It was a lovely mellow color, had drop leaves and an extra leaf to insert when more space was needed.
The set came just before our 1954 wedding date and to our dismay was not the one we had chosen. This was wider and oval shape. True, it also had drop leaves and two extra wide ones for add-ons. As time was short, we kept the replacement.
We set it in the kitchen with one leaf down against the wall. Plenty of room for two. We ate all our meals there except when entertaining. Then we dined in style in the dining room.
The years slipped by quickly and we added four children to our family. We still had ample room at the table. It was now moved to the center of the room with drop leaves up and a center one added. When child number five arrived, we seven continued to fit with enough elbow room as we sat together for meals.
Over the years it was where the kids did their homework, colored, drew pictures, played cards and board games. There was room to spread necessary paperwork; Sort of a very large desk top. Our children and their friends baked and decorated Christmas cookies each year, covering every inch of table with bowls of colored icing and candy decorations. That was where I spread out the fabric and placed the patterns for my latest sewing project.
When I taught 4-H groups, they cooked, sewed, created crafts, and completed environmental projects around the table. One year we made May baskets for the elderly housing nearby. Another time, we created Valentines for the local jail inmates.
Through the years, this also served as my auxiliary counter space for many cooking projects. When preparing the family tradition of Mutton Pies, we needed the table top for cutting, rolling, and cooling the finished pies. If I was making chili sauces, canning fruits, making jelly, or baking cookies, I needed all the flat surfaces available.
Because the top was so wide, I had to search local stores for durable flannel-lined vinyl cloths to keep the finish looking good. This was necessary with the constant use by a large family. Eventually I had a colorful collection of coverings. For special occasions, we had some lovely fabric ones too.
The years passed quickly and the teen-agers started working part-time jobs. This meant family meals were often interrupted with some coming in late, and others leaving early for work. Sports and school activities kept us hopping with rides here and there. College years sneaked up on us and there were fewer sharing a meal. Some left for their own places; others found work out of town. Next came marriages and our children left for their own homes.
We no longer needed the large table with the side leaves up and the center one in place. Two of us seated at this seemed lonely. That was when we removed the inserted leaf, dropped one side and pushed the table up to the wall again.
I removed the protective cloth, bought fancy place mats, and we dined together again as in the old days.
The never-selected table is still in use and available for any gathering. What would we have done over the years without this mistake in our original order? It takes only a minute to raise the leaves and add the center ones when needed. Often our adult children visit with their spouses and our grandchildren. We now must squeeze together and it seems like the good old days again.
Chris & Dan Buendo,
P.S. We wish to thank Jane D. O’Donoghue of Westfield for sharing her column. Please feel free to email us for an original copy of this column to share with your family and friends.