It was 1983. Susan and I weren’t married a year yet and had just bought our first house in Olathe. Most of what filled our rooms in that rental home in Bethany, Missouri were hand-me-down furniture and items we’d found at garage sales. But we had decided to invest in our first new piece of furniture–a table for our breakfast room. We knew we wanted real wood. So we headed to The Unvarnished Truth.
I can remember it like it was yesterday, walking through the aisles of tables and chairs, Susan and I testing chairs and dreaming about our future together.
As someone in the construction business, I have an appreciation for the high-quality finishes that craftsman carpenters have, so when we saw the solid oak table with a sturdy frame and built-in extendable leaves, we were sold.
I should mention, this table didn’t just have one or two leaves. It had four. When fully extended, this table would seat twelve people comfortably. As a young couple, we had hopes for a big family. It may not have been practical at the time, but buying that table was a leap of faith.
A Table Full of Memories
If tables could talk, this one would have plenty to say. It has quite a few dents and dings from hungry children banging on its top. It’s seen its fair share of Straub birthday parties and welcomed numerous guests to our home. It’s held more dishes, anniversary flowers, and homework projects than I can count.
For a while, it even held the petrified remains of green beans. Years after the fact, we discovered that the kids had been stuffing their unwanted vegetables in napkins, discreetly hiding them in the shelves under the table while Susan and I weren’t looking.
Three homes and thirty-four years later, that table remains the unspoken centerpiece of our home; the point of gathering in both the ordinary daily routine and the moments of grand celebration.
Dinner at Dad’s
That breakfast room table took on a new role in our home a few years back. It all started when I had some health complications. An avid golfer at the time, my doctor suggested I get a new hobby. So I turned to cooking. I’ve spent the last few years cultivating my skills in the kitchen.
My masterpieces are in the area of comfort food. I don’t want to brag, but my pulled pork, smoked to perfection atop mashed potatoes, gravy and a crispy sourdough bread will put any Kansas City BBQ joint to shame. And don’t get me started on my Reuben sandwich!
So every Sunday, around 6:30, family and friends gather around that old oak table. All four leaves are needed as dishes are piled on. Without fail, every seat is filled, with kids and grandkids, old friends visiting, and new neighbors invited spur of the moment. I’m usually the last guy to sit down, running around the kitchen, finishing the side dishes and grabbing the butter.
When I take my place at the head of the table, I’m filled with gratitude to be surrounded by all of the best things in life–good people, good food, and good conversation. The grandkids run in and out as the adults linger around the table, swapping stories and helping themselves to seconds and thirds.
The Gift of Hospitality
For me, it’s not about making perfect dishes. It’s not about impressing others with our perfect house. This gathering has become about normal, everyday hospitality. It’s a help-yourself kind of comfortability. It’s about really listening to each other and drawing near as a family and with our friends.
When Susan and I bought that table all those years back, we had no way of knowing what was to come. Our family has been blessed to grow from the two of us to 14 with Grandbaby numbers 3 and 4 on the way. The table has to be covered by a tablecloth these days, the scratches gouges and watermarks, all carry such great memories and we are so looking forward to many more to come!