One year, probably 1981-82, my brother and I came home at Christmas to find a new dining room table in our parents’ home. It had replaced the classic 70’s table that had been a huge part of our childhood. You know the type — a wood veneer finish covering particle board with not-so-comfortable straight back chairs with the faux leather covering on the seats and backs. Now in its place was a sturdy, solid oak pedestal table, complete with 2 leaves to make the table seat 6 comfortably, or 8 in a pinch. The chairs were solid wood as well, and 2 captain’s chairs with arms completed the set.
I offered to set the table for my mother as we were preparing to have dinner that night, but she quickly stopped me to say, “Wait! Get the placemats out first!”
Placemats? In my whole life until that day, we’d never used a placemat one time. But I dutifully put down placemats and did so for every meal shared at the table thereafter.
Three decades of Christmas dinners, Thanksgiving feasts, birthday gatherings, Mother’s Day lunches, Father’s Day meals, and countless Sunday lunches after church services took place at the table.
Then, without warning, we lost Dad and just 3 years later, Mom was gone as well. The final crushing blow was when my brother lost a brief bout with cancer a few years after that. All too soon, the table was now in my possession.
What was once just a utilitarian piece of furniture in my eyes had now transformed into a treasure trove of precious memories. As I sit at the table now, I can close my eyes and hear my father’s voice as he prayed before a meal. I can see my daughter having her first Thanksgiving dinner. I can see dad’s little 19-inch television sitting on a stand nearby where we would watch Christmas music specials before we’d go to the living room to open presents. There were the many games of Sorry, Uno, and Clue that were played there, each bringing back memories of laughter. And there was one unforgettable game of Pictionary that, to this day, will bring tears of laughter when I recall how one picture went horribly, hysterically wrong.
Now, my daughter has moved out and will soon be having a baby of her own. She will come to visit and share a meal and I will have placemats on the table. And when she asks, “Why are we using placemats? It’s just a table!”, my response will be, “No, my darling. It is the table.