We’re accustomed to having children and grandchildren around our large dining table often. But these pandemic days we are just the two of us so we eat every meal at our breakfast table. Now this table hasn’t always been a breakfast table. If it could talk it might tell us even more than we know. But we do know some of its background.
When Daddy Graham began downsizing his workshop he offered this sturdy old table to us. He disposed of the clutter that was on it in various ways. He seldom threw anything away so every item in his possession had to find either another use or be given to someone who would give it a second life. Buckets of paint remainder, rolls of hay twine, coffee cans of used nails, even an old pair of boots, all were carefully passed on. When he had unearthed the 4’X3′ pine table he helped load it onto Charles’s truck. A man of few words, he simply mumbled something about that this table was his and Mama Graham’s first table.
We used the table sometimes out in the yard when we had big family cookouts. But gradually it became a fixture in our storage shed, a place for various tools, work gloves, cans of used nails, a broken lamp that was too good to throw away.
We renovated our grandson’s upstairs room and with the changes came a need for a computer desk. We looked around and decided we could use that old table for his desk. A few years later we moved across town. Charles D, though he had acquired a desk, really wanted that table in his room but there was no space for it. He tried to make it work because he had become attached to that old table. When it just wouldn’t fit, suddenly I had to direct movers where else to place it. This new house had a breakfast room as well as a dining room but we had no breakfast table. So–temporarily, we said–we put that old table in the vacant spot.
It wasn’t long before we all realized that table was just right for our breakfast nook. The knotty pine boards gave us a sense of contentment, the rustic nature fitted our taste. We wondered why we hadn’t thought of using it there sooner. We used odd chairs and stools until we could start looking for the most appropriate ones for this table.
I was being dismissed from the hospital following a painful surgery when my friend Sally called in great excitement. She’d found the perfect chairs for our table, four of them, at Goodwill for $5 apiece. I groaned at the very thought of walking into Goodwill that day but my nephew, Rick Eastham, had come to take me home and I asked him and my sister Jackie to go in and look at the chairs. The chairs were in good shape, they said, except for the seats which needed re-rushing. Rick was just beginning to weave chair bottoms and took on the job of doing these for us. I know nothing of the former life of these chairs but they are happily settled in with us now.
So there we were eating every day at Mama and Daddy Graham’s first table sitting in nicely resurrected rush-bottomed chairs. Daddy G was not a furniture maker but a very resourceful farmer. He made this table from whatever he could find in 1943. The edges were rough. The four corners he sawed off so there wouldn’t be any sharp edges. Charles imagines his mother may have instructed Daddy to do that for the safety of the children. One corner has a “boo-boo” cut as if Daddy had begun to cut more of a corner and Mama had said, “No, no, JB, not that much!” The legs are the same length but one is slimmer than the others. In addition to these characteristics, there were the scars and marks from all those years as a thrown away table.
A skilled acquaintance took on the job of sanding our table and coating it with many layers of see-through protection. Now the beautiful grains and knots in the wide boards are clearly visible but the surface is smooth and cleanable.
Charles doesn’t remember much about the table as he was growing up. Probably by the time he would have really noticed it his parents had acquired a new table for their growing family and moved this one to the back porch where people could set buckets of freshly picked beans and squash. But we imagine Mama making her biscuits on its surface when it was in her kitchen, maybe cutting vegetables and tallying farm records in a meticulously kept ledger. I can picture her sitting there as she read her Bible.
As is true of most treasures, someone else might not see the beauty of our old table and chairs but to us they are very special. Their value is not just in their history but also in the new story they are writing.
Our breakfast nook is a favorite place for grandchildren to draw pictures and play games. When we have a crowd too big for the dining table several children can happily settle around that table. It’s a friendly place for a cup of tea with drop-in friends or for spreading out a map as we plan a trip. And it’s a wonderful place for two to four to enjoy a meal while watching birds at feeders and bird bath just outside.
Charles’s thanks to the Lord as he “says grace” often begins with, “Thank You, Lord, for bringing us to this table again.”
Psalm 103:5 comes to mind. The psalmist lists some wonderful benefits God blesses us with. It says: “Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” He gives us what we need–and extras too!