The first furniture I bought when we got married was our kitchen table and chairs. The New England pine table was made by a craftsman in his workshop near Redding, Connecticut, and it had not one nail in it, only pegs and screws. It’s nearly impossible to come across furniture like that nowadays.
I remember the details so clearly of finding and buying that table. I had just graduated from the University of Connecticut and was working as an editor for an educational publishing house in Westport. Besides publishing books, we also made instructional films for teachers, modeling the reading approach of Dr. Lydia Duggins whose book we were publishing. One of my tasks was to take the program to the schools which had purchased it and gather data on how it was working. One such trip sent me up Route 7, through fairly rural communities, and I happened to pass the furniture workshop. On the way back, I stopped in.
The furniture was breathtaking. The craftsman was obviously an artist. He had pieces he considered his standards, but he also made custom items. If you could draw it or describe it in enough detail, he could make it. The table I chose was a drop-leaf trestle table. When both leaves were up, it was 48 inches round, big enough to accommodate our parents when they came to visit, as long as both sets didn’t come at the same time. We bought four chairs, all we could afford, and when my sister came with my parents, we had to use a folding chair. All of the furniture in that first little second-floor apartment was rented except for our kitchen table and chairs.
I would show you a better picture of that table if I could, but my daughter has it now. My parents fell in love with the furniture that craftsman made, and they bought enough furniture from him to furnish their dining room, bedroom, living room, and guest room. When they both were gone, my brother, sister, and I divided up their furniture, and I took the dining room set. Since their table was similar to mine, I gave our table to our daughter. I think of all the dinners my husband and I had on our little pine table when we were a young couple, just starting out. How we invited our folks up and made “fancy” dinners for them, like American chop suey (ground beef, elbow macaroni, cheddar cheese, and a can of tomatoes), and felt like such big shots because we were married and had a place of our own. Then we started having kids, and we had to buy a fifth chair. Even though my daughter no longer uses that table in her kitchen, I hope she keeps it and passes it down or gives it to one of her brothers.
The kitchen table we use now is a 36×72-inch butcher block counter-height work table. It is way too big for our small, narrow kitchen, but I can’t bring myself to part with it. Our kitchen in Texas was plenty big enough to accommodate both the butcher block table and my parent’s dining room set. The work table was purchased in Texas when I was one of the chefs at a tea room. The restaurant had a work table there that I fell in love with it. We bought one just like it, and besides being the place where I did all my food prep and bread making, it became the social center of the house. We ate all our meals on it, and even when we had guests, they wanted to sit at that table, as it was more casual than the dining room one. Every Christmas we threw a big fiesta, and that table was laden from end to end with fajitas, King Ranch chicken, machacado, and other things that are familiar to us Texans. So many years with family and friends gathered around it, eating, laughing, discussing, sharing…if I gave it away or cut it down, I’m afraid my memories would go with it. When I sit at it now, I look across the table and see my sweet husband, George. But I can also look to my right and to my left, and still see those three great kids we raised sitting there with us, night after night, through those many years of growing up. A lot happens at kitchen tables. Kitchen tables are special.