Around the Old Oak Table
Over the years, this workhorse piece of furniture has served our family well as a place to eat, catch up and share.
Photo: Hilda J. Born
Around our broad brown table, we often sit and talk after eating a hearty meal or a social snack. It is an old-fashioned solid oak table with a hole for the crank at one end to open and lengthen it by inserting two more planks. The only time we took the boards out was when we moved, and it needed to be made as light as possible.
Whenever I put on a fresh tablecloth from our travels in Mexico or the Philippines, it looks quite elegant, especially if set with crystal goblets and carefully placed silver cutlery.
I sit in my usual spot, with teapot in hand, ready to pour tea or coffee. As I do so, I can’t help but wonder, where are the dear folks who have shared food and time with us around this familiar table?
What I like to remember are the schoolchildren trooping down the lane, eager to come for an after-school birthday party. We always invited the whole class and most of them came for games in the yard and cake at the table. A few days ahead of the birthday, I would write our child’s invitation to hand to the teacher. She would read it to the class, and they would accept the oral invitation because we all knew each other in the Mt. Lehman, B.C., community. Gifts were not expected and seldom exchanged. After the party, or during games, a parent would often come to help and pick up some of the children, or else I would bring home the ones from farther away.
Similarly about once a year, the Sunday school classes that we or our grown children taught would come over for lunch after the Sunday morning service. It was surprising how many youngsters would fit on each side and at least three on each end of the broad table. After a hearty meal, the hayloft appealed to some adventure seekers.
The hungriest group, however, were the young fellows who came to haul in the rectangular hay bales. For them it was roast beef, potatoes, corn and pies. They didn’t notice the plastic tablecloth over the hardwood table, but eagerly dug into the home-cooked meal.
Because our dairy herd was on test for genetic production records, a licensed tester came every month. Art Maddocks shared a monthly breakfast with us for many years. He faithfully sat and listened to our regular pre-breakfast devotional ritual and prayer.
As the children grew up, mealtimes changed. The table seemed rather large when I got up extra early to have breakfast and a few words with our eldest teenager who worked an early shift. He would hastily eat his cereal before rushing off with a thermos and a shiny steel lunch kit. A few years later, our daughter in her smart white uniform ate little before heading to work at the nursing home. During the college and university years, we often hosted young people on choir tours or basketball team members passing through.
At our annual family Christmas dinners, the antique wooden table remains central. As the family grew to 27 and beyond, however, we added another folding table to make room for everybody. We take turns reading a verse until the whole Christmas story is told but the minute after Grandpa’s “Amen” is spoken, happy chatter and teasing fills the air.
The crank for the table is seldom used to shrink it in size. We prefer to keep it extended so that there is always room around the old oak table for a few friends, or even a crowd.
Next, take a look back at the all-important role of the kitchen stove during the 1930s.