Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Dining Room Furniture

Probably the longest ongoing relationship I have had with any thing or body is my connection to these pieces of walnut furniture. A table, four side chairs, two arm chairs, and a buffet. I have been dusting them since I was four years old and I know every turn and groove. My parents bought this furniture when they were married in 1920, eighty-five years ago last May. It has been in every home I have ever lived in.

You have read about this furniture before. It was on the minds of my children when they found this place for me to live in Oregon and in their thoughts when they picked the paint for the walls of the room where it sits so gracefully. It is where we gathered this year at Thanksgiving to reenact dinners of their childhood.

We pulled out one leaf and spread my grandmother’s “banquet-size” Irish linen cloth on it. We set the table with her dishes, beautiful Haviland china that has miraculously survived so many dinners and moves. How many people have sat upon these chairs, eaten from this board? And how many other activities have been shared here? Puzzles worked, homework done, craft projects made, games played, quilts sewed, late night and early morning cups of coffee. Always the center of activity.

Where the furniture now sits was originally supposed to be a “family room,” but the intended dining room is where I put my desk and computer and it is serving as my den. The switch-around works for how I live right now. So my dining room in the family room is dead ahead when you walk in the door, the first thing you see. Now that I have other spaces to put things and the children are adults with their own homes to hold their miscellany, it is free of clutter except for the centerpiece that changes with the seasons.

I oiled and polished it today. Part of the pre-holiday cleaning ritual instilled by my mother. I skip the silver polishing though, as we tend to use the everyday ware now. Polishing used to take up one whole day and leave my hands black. Unlike the china, the set of silver is no longer complete (someone must have forgotten to count the spoons after some dinner in the past) so it stays in the drawer.

On New Year’s Eve I will work a puzzle on the table. A tradition started some fifteen years ago when I gave up the social celebration and decided to stay home by myself and listen to music and have a quiet evening welcoming the New Year. Before then, I’ll spread out paper and ribbon and wrap Christmas presents. And our Solstice meal will be shared there. In between, coffee cake for a Sunday breakfast, a game of cribbage on a rainy evening, a stack of photos to sort and put in an album. It is a busy place, my dining room table.

I wish each of you could come and put your feet under it and spend some time with me in my new home.


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