Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Oak Dining Table
When my father was little, he would crawl under this table and listen to the relatives talk and tell their stories. It was in his grandparents’ house then, a little unpainted place that wasn’t much more than a petrified shack, and which would have fit in one corner of the barn. Just a few days ago, our grandson did the same thing for the very first time.
The barn was a cathedral. The house was a narrow affair with a bowed floor. Both are gone now. When my great-grandparents moved to San Francisco in the mid-Fifties, they left the table and a piano behind without so much as locking the door. The house went untouched for half a dozen years, until my brother and a friend whose father was growing watermelons on the property let themselves in one day for a look around. After that, we’d poke around inside now and then, and marvel at some of the other items they’d left behind — things like electric bills in the amount of a dollar or less, old letters, pictures on the wall, straw hats, bed springs, and peach-pitting implements with smooth wooden handles.
There was an old circular harrow on the tank house floor. An outdoor staircase led up to the second level where my grandfather’s quiet, reclusive brother slept beneath the groaning weight of the family’s water supply. There was an olive tree between the tank house and the tiny garage. In the garage was my great-grandfather’s Model T. Ben didn’t have a driver’s license, and drove slowly enough that it was unnecessary to stop at stop signs — he just coasted through and made nice round turns. Occasionally he’d be stopped by a policeman, whose main goal was to say hello and ask Ben how he was doing.
The table sat in the equipment shed behind our house for many years, until my mother cleaned it up and refinished it, and Dad moved it into the house. We also have some of the old pictures. The piano was eventually fetched by an aunt and hauled to San Francisco.
The old light fixtures in this picture came from my grandfather’s cousin’s house in Fresno, as did the icebox lurking there in the gloom. The picture was taken at about eight-thirty in the morning. The chair in the foreground on the right is original. The high chair on the left, also refinished by my mother, is the one my wife and I used for all four of our kids.
[click to enlarge]
Note: Writing Smoke, Cigar #2.
“Oak Dining Table” added to Penny Thoughts and Photographs.
In the Forum: surviving the next upgrade.