Tuesday, May 29, 2012

If that table could talk......

     In my parents home on  Fort Hill Avenue, in Canandaigua, for as long as I can remember, the kitchen was mostly filled by a long, rectangular, wooden table with open backed benches on the long sides and captain's chairs on both ends.  This blog is about that table.  

     With no one sitting at it, the table was impressive, but when it was full of people it was more so.   How long was it?  6 Yarger asses long, that's how long.  We could all fit on the benches that sat along the side.  I'm having trouble picturing the benches, but I'm pretty sure that at some point Dad had wrapped them in a brown carpet of some kind to save us splinters.  We didn't have much padding on our asses in those days, so it was appreciated (we really can't say the same now).  Dad took his spot, at the head of the table, closest to the door, but with his
Circa 1970, before we got "The Table"
back to it (he obviously was never in the mafia), and Mom took the other captain's chair at the foot of the table, facing the door (she had lived in Boston and had a "checkered" past, so she liked to see them coming).  The kids sat on each side and for a lot of my childhood I sat at the right hand of my father.  There was a small kids table that sat 2, but this blog is not about that table, it's about the big one.

     The table's day would start each morning by hosting just my Dad, shirtless, or wearing a white T-shirt, a lot of times just in his underwear, sitting at the end, and drinking his coffee.  It was the first thing you'd see if you got up that early (or in that late), and all seemed right in the world when he occupied that position, and maybe it was, because I feel like things got worse since he stopped occupying it.  He wasn't chatty in the am, but if you did sit with him for a spell, sometimes he'd ask you about your week, or he'd tell a quick story about his.  One morning he
"The Table" , it was probably just Tuesday
asked me to help him with some math on a bid that he was working on, and my head had trouble fitting through the door that morning (be nice now), as I left for school, thinking that I had been able to help my Dad with something.  Some mornings you'd come down for school and find Dad engaged in conversation with a VA patient at the table.  I never knew how they came to be there, so early in the am, I assumed that Dad had found them sleeping on the front lawn glider and had invited them in.  That table hosted hundreds of guests in it's lifetime, and I still hear stories of people that had dinner with us, as a family, and remember it to this day.  As Dad left for work each am, the parade of kids would start using the table, piling their bowls of Buckwheats along it's length and the stillness of the morning that had existed just scant minutes before, would now be gone.  Last to appear each morning, was my Mother, and she would sit on Dad's end of the table and start the day with a Chesterfield cigarette and a cup of coffee.  If she ate, it
Notice Ace giving a Peace sign, later he'd move to a thumbs up
would generally be a piece of chocolate from a gift box, or sometimes raisin toast.  Like her mother before her, Mom didn't feel it necessary to dress up for house-guests and spent a good deal of the day in her housecoat, sitting at that spot at the table.  Her friends from church, or Mother's Circle or Birthright would pop in all day and have coffee with her.  My mom was a great listener, and one can only imagine the issues that she helped solve each day at that spot.  To say that my Mom never worked, is to have not known my Mom at all. 

     In the afternoon the table would fill again with a passel of kids doing their homework and projects.  You see, back in the day, we did our homework right after school, and before we were allowed to play Xbox (just kidding, we had Pong, not Xbox).  The table would then be prepared of the biggest workload of it's day, hosting the family's dinner each night.  We ate, as a family, at the table each night.  You knew when dinner was and it started on time, with or without you.  I've visited a few military academys and
seen the choreographed precision that is their mealtime, but that was not ours.  We had a mass of 28 hands criss-crossing over that table passing dishes and butter and narrowly avoiding the full glasses of Kool-Aid littered about.  We weren't very good at the last part, so one evening Dad made a rule that we get serve our drinks after our dinners and with our desserts.  My guess is that he got tired of the cherry mashed potatoes that he had to eat when the Kool-Aid inevitably got spilled into them.  To this day, most evenings, I finish my dinner and then realize that I have full drink in front of me.  Once again, we'd rarely just have the family at the table, there would always be a friend of someones joining us, and I don't remember anyone being turned away, ever.  We'd go around the table and share a quick blurb about your day (You do the math, it had to be quick or we'd run into breakfast) One of my favorite memories involved me, educating my Father about the olfactory sense.  After "catching" me smelling my food one night, I was chastised for it. I tried to explain
We did not allow babies on the table, Char didn't know better
to him how I had just learned that smell and taste were connected, so in essence, I was pre-tasting my food, but Dad wasn't buying what I was selling.  He quickly and definitively banned the practice of pre-tasting food at his table.    Two nights later, he took a big gulp of his milk, which he quickly spat back into the glass and bellowed "Louise,  This milk is spoiled !"  You can imagine what I was thinking and my egregious error was to let my face betray my thought and allow the beginning of a smirk to creep unto one corner of my mouth.  I never saw the hand that came and knocked me ass over teakettle unto my back on the floor behind the open-backed bench.  I landed hard, but laughing and exclaimed "But, I never even said it!"  Dad quietly said back, "But you were thinking it", and he was right, I was.  You see at that table, you could get punished, even for things that you were just thinking, and as I learned that night, it didn't always pay to be within an arms reach of your father. 

     After dinner that table would be cleared and over the course of the next few hours before bed, it would randomly be filled with the occasional nighttime visitor, and a few of the family playing board games. The table saw a lot of Euchre games and the worst thing you could be, in my father's eyes, was a "dirty Sandbagger".   The last person to sit at the table some evenings was Mom or Dad waiting to have a conversation with a child who may have tried to stretch his/her curfew a little.  It was never a good thing to sneak in and find that chair occupied.   I'll close the blog by just mentioning the Holiday dinners that were hosted by that table over the years.  I'm going to have to let you imagine them, as the blog is already lengthy, so just substitute Cherry flavored stuffing for the potatoes, and you'll get the idea.  I'll finish as I started, that table was impressive when it was empty, but even more so when it was full. The stories it could tell......
The table had to suffer through P.D.A's and bad fashion too.

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