By Rod Rose
A dinner table surrounded by family and friends has been a symbol of American life since the first Thanksgiving. Sitting down each evening and discussing the day’s events over a hearty pot roast is a tradition that continues in many homes today.
Unfortunately, in recent years this tradition pretty much ceased in my own home. It was an unanticipated result of purchasing a square, counter-height dining table. It seemed this would be a great improvement over our rectangular table, especially when we wanted to play board games.
At first hubby wasn’t convinced, but he’s pretty easygoing, so it didn’t take long to turn him to my way of thinking. Soon enough, it was out with the old and in with the new. I thought my heart was happy.
My pleasure lasted about three days. Even though two of my older kids exceed 6 feet in height, I also had toddlers. Every time they needed to sit at the table, they had to undertake a mini mountain-climbing expedition. I was a nervous wreck, worrying that one would fall from his perch while coloring pictures, or having a snack.
And it wasn’t just the youngsters; old folks not only had difficulty navigating the climb, but letting their feet dangle at that altitude caused severe cases of swelling. By the time we passed the cranberry relish, the plumpness of Aunt Bertha’s ankles had begun to rival that of our succulent Thanksgiving turkey.
The counter height also put a cramp in our hospitality. Unless you have a supply of bar stools, pulling up an extra chair means somebody is seated much lower than everyone else. I considered scrawling across the table, “Kilroy was here.”
And even though it was square, meaning we could have two game players per side, the center was not easy to reach. So, except for an occasional round of Connect Four at the coffee table, my game collection was soon forgotten.
Hubby began to notice how uncomfortable it is to sit up high for an extended period of time, so eventually we began eating nearly every meal in the living room. Naturally that led to watching TV during dinner, which I swore we would never do. Before I knew it, the toddlers were 5 and 6, and couldn’t remember a time when we regularly gathered ‘round the table for dinner.
While all of these issues were bothersome, I found one thing more troubling than the rest. It might seem old-fashioned; but hubby is the head of our home, and that was visually illustrated when he would sit at the head of the table. I didn’t like this new arrangement. Not one tiny little bit. I began to crave a Norman Rockwell scene with father seated in his traditional place, and a row of bright, smiling faces down either side.
A couple of months ago, my aunt asked if I would like to have my great-grandmother’s dining table. I was so overcome with emotion, I had to climb up and sit down.
In 1913, my newlywed Grandma purchased the table with her egg money. It was part of my mother’s childhood, as well as my own. I’m not sure I ever actually sat there for a meal, as kids always have their own seating arrangements during large family gatherings.
I took possession of the beloved table a few weeks ago, and within an hour, my son and his buddies had gathered round to play a game. My heart was happy.
When we had company, I figured the teens would sit in the family room. But instead, they pulled out folding chairs. We ended up with 15 people laughing, talking, and not noticing the lack of elbow room. And nobody was stuck peering over the edge. My heart was happy.
I never dreamed I would be the recipient of such a treasured part of my family history. When I have grandchildren, they will be the seventh generation to gather round this rectangular table. They will be a safe distance from the floor, and my aging legs won’t swell from the altitude. That makes my heart happiest of all.
Truitt is an author, speaker and mother of five. Find her on Facebook (Ginger Truitt-Author) and Twitter (@GingerTruitt), or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.