Back in 1903, my great-grandparents guessed how many coffee beans were in a jar and won a table from the general store in Canova, South Dakota. And what a table! Solid oak, measuring 52” x 52”, with beautiful turned and carved legs. The best part, though, is that the table has six leaves. At its maximum length, it can seat 14 people.
My great-grandparents were grateful for that table. They had 12 children. The household frequently had company over for dinner or supper. Of course, then the grownups sat around the table and the children were set up at smaller, satellite tables.
My grandmother inherited the table from her parents. By the time I was born, it sat in her kitchen. There was no dining room in her small house. She was a great cook, living in Wisconsin’s lake country, so she had visitors year-round. Sometimes all six leaves went into the table and there was barely room to pull out a chair. People laughed, told stories, played cards, and ate well around that table.
When it was strawberry picking season, mounds of berries were poured onto newspapers on the table and we hulled them in preparation for washing, mashing, and freezing.
Cookie baking? Newspapers and cut-apart grocery bags were laid across the table’s top so that dozens and dozens of cookies could cool. Pfefferneusse, switch cookies, chocolate chip, spritz, oatmeal raisin, sugar cookies—my mouth is watering with recollection.
Every Monday morning, my grandmother mixed up at least 6 loaves of white bread and baked them before midday. I always awoke to the sound of her washing machine chugging in the basement and the irresistible smell of baked bread cooling on the table.
When my husband and I established our household, the table moved into our dining room. Here, it continues to absorb good memories. We host Game Nights for nine weeks during the Winter. Friday nights are replete with potluck dishes, always showcased on this beautiful oak table. And sometimes we rearrange the furniture so the table can hold all six leaves. (Pictured here, a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, with 12 people, a dormouse, and a crocodile gathered round.)
For well over one hundred years, this table has listened to conversations, heard jokes and stories, borne the weight of wonderful cooking by family and friends, and provided a solid base for card games and board games and puzzles. It’s a cherished treasure.
Vicki Palmquist is a life-long reader, a writer, and a graphic designer. She works with children’s books authors, some of her favorite people on the planet. She is the publisher of Bookology magazine, which seeks to help educators and families find the wide array of great reading choices for children. Her favorite uses for tables are playing board games and putting puzzles together.