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Memories of Table Leaves

My mother loved French Provincial furniture; we had a dining room set that looked very much like the one above.  Fancy stuff, too much work required to dust and polish all those curvy legs as far as I was concerned. She grew up on a farm during The Great Depression, and knew the meaning of doing without and being poor.  I think the French Provincial furniture and other nice things Dad was able to provide for her over the years made her feel like she was living the life she might have dreamed of as a child; and maybe served as proof in her mind that she was a good as anyone else.

My mother has long since passed into the spirit world.  The house with the formal dining room belongs to someone new; and the fancy furniture was sold when Dad moved to a small apartment a few years before his passing.  Now the memories of family gathered around that table exist only in our hearts and mind, but if I shut my eyes I can still see it clearly...

Mom, wearing one of the cover-up terry cloth aprons I had made her over her church dress, standing in the kitchen checking on the turkey, beef roast, or ham; stirring gravy that was simmering on the stove, and forcing boiled potatoes through the ricer that turned them into a fluffy mound.  A Jello salad of some kind was chilling in the refrigerator, and dessert was cooling on the counter, or had been made the day before and was waiting to be served. 

Earlier we had helped Mom pull the two sides of the dining table apart, extending the space between them to expose the metal framework that supported the extra table leaves she kept stored in the closet in a quilted bag, waiting to be retrieved for such occasions.  Once the leaves were safely locked in place, she covered the table with a liner and then a tablecloth made of lace.  China and crystal goblets were retrieved from the hutch, and the good silverware was taken from it's chest. Mom was particular about how the table was set, so we learned to do it correctly when we were young; no haphazard placement would suffice, and napkins were to be folded just so.  There was always candles and some sort of centerpiece for each occasion too.

In my mind I can see the table set and waiting, and I have to admit that once the candles were lit, and the light from her beloved chandelier (that I cursed when it came time for cleaning) sparkled from up above, it truly was a beautiful setting.  My mother wanted celebrations of any kind to be special, and with her in charge they always were.

Those extra table leaves did their duty over the years, extending the table to it's full length for birthday dinners, holidays shared with relatives, and events like high school graduation.  As time passed my sisters and I married, and before long there were highchairs and booster seats pulled up to the table too.  Of course Dad always presided at the head of the table, and Mom sat opposite him at the far end near the dining room door, so that she could easily access the kitchen to refill serving bowls, meat platters, and drinks, and serve wonderful desserts when we all finished with the main course. Dinner wasn't over until everyone was stuffed!  Conversation, laughter, the clatter of china and silver, and the noise of children, rose up together... I realize now how much mom treasured those times when we all sat around her table.

I cannot tell you how sad it was to gather at that table after my mom died.  It never felt right with her empty chair, everyone seemed a little more subdued.  I have no doubt though, that she was still present and watching over us as the candles flickered, the chandelier sparkled, and the voices of her children rose up together once again.

I'm linking up with Brenda at BYG Adventures today, where the word we are Pondering this week is "leave"...  
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Head on over to Brenda's place and see what others are Pondering today!

14 comments:

  1. My kids just helped their grandma put in her table leaf when we were there for 4th of July. I never thought of it before, but the table leaf being added always means family gatherings and lots of fun memories. Thank you for the image of your family gathered round.
    We won't always live in this house, but I don't think I'll ever be able to move to a house that doesn't have room for my grown kids and their families.

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    1. I started out to write a story about the table, but I soon realized that the story was the family hat gathered there, the memories shared. I sent this post to my sisters when it was finished. Thankfully, they both liked it. I tried hard to do it justice and keep it true to the memories I have. My sister wrote back tonight how she wished we could go home again, but there no longer a place that we call home. I can see you in the years ahead, wherever it finds you, setting the table in eager anticipation of children and grandchildren coming to visit, and I know how fast your heart will be beating as you see that first car coming down the road. There is no place like home!

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  2. Sweet tribute to your mother...and her table.

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    1. Thank you Patricia, my mother and I had a difficult relationship, but I understand her better as I grow older, and I've grown more fond of the pretty things she loved as they hold nostalgic value. I have her Desert Rose dishes in a china cabinet here beside me, and I remember all the times that they graced our dining table with good meals and love.

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  3. Wonderful story. I recall family dinners like that too, at my grandparents' houses growing up. Sadly, I don't think this is a memory my own children will have as they get older. Regular family gatherings for dinners/Sunday lunches just don't happen like they used to.

    Hmmm...makes me wonder what they WILL remember...I may have to ask them!

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    1. Thank you Carrie. This will not be one of the memories my children share either, but I know they have memories of there own that will make them smile, and I'm sure your children do too.

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  4. Such lovely memories. I have a "leaf" table now, but when you pull on one end, it has a mechanism that automatically pulls both sides apart to put the leaf in. My daughter has my grandmother's round table that has leaves, and the pedestal separates to support the longer length. It still works!

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    1. I am delighted to discover here how many of us have known such dining tables, Linda. Family gatherings around such tables bind us together.

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  5. Table leaves...my Grandmother's table had two and they came out every Sunday for family dinners. At some point, the family reached a size where leaving them in just made more sense and so that's what they did. I have such wonderful memories of my Grandmother's table and dinners there with family...
    I love what you did here with the story about the table and your Mom and family...isn't it so true that so much of those important things and memories are centered around a table? Our own table has a leaf that lives underneath and can be raised to the table easily and doesn't have to be stored in a closet or under a bed. I love it.

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    1. I have known a table with the leaf stored underneath as you describe here Lisa, and tables of all sizes and shapes that can be extended in this way. Once I started writing I remembered my grandmother's tiny table in the small house she lived in after her children were grown, and it too could be extended to seat most of the adults wall to wall for family dinners, while us grandchildren had the fun of card tables for our own groups. You are right that many of the memories we share as families center not only around events, but also pieces as common place as a table.

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  6. I actually have a table leaf that I put in every time my kids come for dinner. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story and thanks for pondering with me

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    1. Wonderful, Brenda! This turned out to be a fun choice for your prompt. If putting leaves in tables makes good memories for us to remember, then I'm no longer so against the dusting and polishing of those four-legged beasts! :-)

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  7. What wonderful memories and what a special mother you had!

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    1. Thank you Mimi, as I started to write this story it brought back such sweet times, now long ago. Yes, my mother was special, she knew how to make things feel festive, and without requiring a great deal of expense to do it. I didn't know as a child that in many families things weren't like this, when I grew up I learned just how much work she put into caring for our family.

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