Saturday, December 4th, 2010 07:30 pm
When my mother died a few years ago, I inherited a multiple leaf dining table from her. It had been my grandma's table and had been in her dining room as long as I could remember.

Grandma and I had a shared love of plants and gardening. When she died, my mother, my sisters and I, and our cousins gathered at her house to divide up the things that had not already been promised to a specific person. I asked for, and was gladly given, her gardening hand tools. Everyone else looked at me like I had lost what was left of my mind - after all, there were Oriental rugs, solid silver flatware, gold rimmed china, and solid wood pieces of furniture, ornately carved, still up for grabs. Why would I pick a bunch of hand trowels, shears and those weird looking wire hands when I could choose my share of that other stuff? (The wire hands are just neater than snuff - they have a crook at the end of each of them for hanging on your clothesline after you've stretched your wet gloves to dry over their wire fingers.)

My mother took the table, and for several years afterward, she dropped both end leaves, stored the two center leaves, and used the table as a sort of telephone desk in a corner of her dining room. She already had a large table with matching chairs in there.

And now I have the table. In Grandma's house, I remember it always being covered with a tablecloth, and candlebra in the middle of it. Around here, that would last as long as it took for me to leave the room. Four cats would make hash of that. So at my house, the table sits nude in the kitchen, with the end leaves dropped and the center leaves in.

At Grandma's house, you knew you had "arrived," and had stepped over the threshold from child to young adult when you were allowed to eat your meal at the table in the dining room, instead of the kids' table in the kitchen.

I was talking the other night with a woman who knew my mother and was friends with her since they both had been in their early teens. I asked her if she remembered the table. She did.

She said one of the first times she recalled eating at the table was at my mother's 14th birthday dinner in 1951. She was pretty sure Grandma had gotten the table for her brand new dining room in her brand new home in 1949.

Over the years, it has acquired some scars. Some are deeper than others, and I can feel them through the soft cloth I use to apply lemon oil to it every couple of weeks. Grandma probably would wince slightly at some of them, but I think overall, she knew that the journey through life brings with it the scars of experience.

Here in my own kitchen, I sit at the table and contemplate the journey as I suspect my grandmother also did on occasion. There is a feeling of groundedness in that old wood that provides a sense of connection, not only with Grandma, but with an ancient life force and spirit that imparts wisdom along the way.