Kitchen Tables Are Special

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.

Newlyweds at our kitchen table:  My sister, my husband, my mother, and me.  My father took the picture.

Newlyweds at our kitchen table: My sister, my husband, my mother, and me. My father took the picture.

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.

Our kitchen in Texas easily accommodated our big work table and my parents dining room set.

Our kitchen in Texas easily accommodated our big work table and my parents dining room set.

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.

About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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37 Responses to Kitchen Tables Are Special

  1. Will says:

    I completely agree! I’ve just purchased a large farmhouse table for my ever expanding family and I don’t think I’m more happy than when we’re all sat around it sharing food and laughter, the true meaning of life!

  2. I agree with you, kitchen tables are special places, to break bread, make bread, commune. šŸ™‚

  3. Lenore Diane says:

    Amen. The kitchen table was the last thing I purchased after Rob and I got married. I wanted something solid. I wanted something that was going to last. I wanted something that came with ‘leaves’ so it could be extended for large numbers and made smaller for our family. I waited. Then, I found it. A solid oak table we purchased second hand. I love it. And I love all the activities that take place at it: family meals, homework, reports, art projects, conversations, games, etc.

    • Coming East says:

      Some young couples buy everything on the cheep, LD, so they can furnish their apartment quickly. You and I took our time and looked for quality, even if it meant we didn’t have a lot. Those other young couples had to replace their furniture as it wore out, but you and I still have our originals. šŸ™‚

  4. Al says:

    I can remember throwing blankets over the kitchen table and making “forts”. In a young boy’s mind, it was like you had totally shout the world out.

  5. Amy says:

    Love the story, Susan. That is a beautiful picture of you, your mother, George, and your sister. I have a round solid wood dinning table with a three-dragon stand at the bottom. My dad bought us when we had our first house. It looked awkward in the house then, because almost every thing else we had were from garage sale. šŸ™‚

  6. pattisj says:

    I do love the work table you have in your kitchen now. Ours is oak, made by hand for my husband’s grandparents. His parents salvaged it from the basement, removed the contact paper that had been applied to the top and refinished it for us. I hope to get some comfy chairs for it.

  7. I LOVE that table – I will never part with it because it holds too many memories for me too. We use almost all of the chairs too. In fact, I was just thinking about moving the table into our dining room and taking my old farm table into the craft room to use as my work table. (And yes, The Hare’s dollhouse is currently perched on it at the moment.)

    • Coming East says:

      I like that idea of moving the farm table, Ems. Maybe you could get the trestle legs refinished and see what it would cost to rerush the chairs. Happy that you love that table, too!

  8. winsomebella says:

    As huffygirl suggests, many families today have given up the gather-together-at-dinner ritual. It is a shame. I have many, many memories of good times and valuable lessons learned around the table in my parents’ home as well as around the table where I served meals to my family. Glad you rekindled those thoughts, Susan.

    • Coming East says:

      My daughter still tries to have family meals every opportunity she gets, Stacia. I think it’s precisely because she remembers those good times around the kitchen table when she was growing up.

  9. The kitchen is the heart of the home and a gathering place for many around the table. If anyone is interested I just posted Pearl Buck, the author’s apple pie recipe.

  10. dorannrule says:

    How smart you were to opt for quality in your first furniture Susan! Memories around your kitchen table are priceless. Our family joke is that I bought all the furniture in our little adobe rental house in Phoenix for $300! Danish Modern. šŸ™‚ The $300 included beds, dressers, side tables and all living room furniture. The only piece left today (and no longer modern) is a triple dresser (veneer over plywood) we use for storage in the basement!

    • Coming East says:

      Funny story, Dor. Almost every piece of furniture we ever bought was very good quality. That’s why we never had anything matching— we could never afford to complete the set. Our bedroom furniture was my parents’ original set they bought in the forties. Very well made. The living room sofa we’ve had for over forty years, and it’s still a great sofa.

  11. Your original dining table must stay in the family. A lot of meals, conversation, projects and homework happened there. How carefully and artfully constructed. You had a good eye and appreciation for craftsmanship to decide on acquiring it. Your TX kitchen and the yellow you chose for it are lovely.

    • Coming East says:

      Thanks, Georgette. If we had a place for that old table here, I’d take it back if my daughter didn’t want it, but we don’t have a place to out it and we live to far apart to make it feasible to transfer it. I know my daughter wouldn’t get rid of it before asking me. Who knows? Maybe one of our granddaughters might want it someday. One of our sons would probably take it, too. I’m pretty sure it will stay in the Okaty family.

  12. Huffygirl says:

    Tables are special indeed. We have a long table that we bought used for $100 when our kids were little. We didn’t like the chairs that came with it and couldn’t afford new ones, so we used Sears catalog kitchen chairs with metal legs. We had a relative who was going to refinish it for us, then he changed his mind and backed out, so we used scratches and all for years. When I finally finished grad school in 2006 our first splurge was to have it refinished and buy new chairs to match. Thanks for sharing this story. I’m sure many families today may not have the same memories of sitting around their dining tables, as more and more people catch fast food on the run, or eat in front of the TV.

    • Coming East says:

      Loved hearing your table story, HG. You are so right about families today. Kids are too busy with all their activities, and parents are going in a hundred different directions, they just don’t have the opportunity to share a good meal and conversation with each other. They don’t know what they’re missing.

  13. E.C. says:

    Kitchen tables are the heart of a house I think. The life that revolves around them is amazing. I enjoyed your table-tales. You sound quite a bit like how I feel. Nostalgic memories and warm thoughts of simple things bring such joy to my heart. šŸ™‚

    • Coming East says:

      The older I get, E.C., the more nostalgic I get. The reason I was thinking about tables was because I was making cookies yesterday in our work table with little Miss N., my four-year-old friend.

  14. Yes, they are. I always said “if this table could talk.”

  15. Dianna says:

    So true, Susan. Kitchen tables are NOT just for sharing meals….

  16. gaycarboys says:

    we have a dining table but rarely use it:(

  17. I couldn’t agree more. Kitchen tables are like the pulse of the house as far as I’m concerned. I love both of your tables, especially the counter-height table. I just showed my husband, who always appreciates craftsmanship. He is very happy to know your daughter has the table…he couldn’t bear to think that you may have put it to the curb.

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