My grandmother’s table is very special to me, not least because it belonged to my grandmother. Actually, it belonged to my great-grandmother, so it’s something in the way of a family heirloom. I was fortunate enough to be setting up my household just when Grandmom was downsizing, and the cousin to whom the dining set was promised no longer had a place for it. Serendipity – I had just the place for it! But that isn’t exactly why it’s special… It is not so much that I have this thing, but that I have this ‘memory trigger’ of my beautiful, wonderful, crazy family whenever we gather around it.
And there are a lot of wonderful memories for me centered on that dining room table. Growing up, going to Baltimore to visit Grandmom and Granddad meant meals with extended family that we saw once every few years. Squeezing 10-12 around the table, neighbors’ elbows knocking, feet jostling underneath… laughter and chatter. That was assuming I got to sit at the table. There was, occasionally, a kids’ table – but oddly I have no memory of that. At Grandmom’s house, one did not eat anywhere but at the table. (Maybe at the kitchen table – was there a kitchen table? – but I have almost no memory of the kitchen.) Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, any snacking – all in the yellow dining room.
The most special set of memories, though, is centered around the game of UNO. I have memories of playing UNO as a child and teenager around that table in my grandparents’ home, and now we play around the same table in my home. Today we added to that store by having a rousing round of hands – I called it ‘cutthroat’ although we were having a bit too much fun to be terribly competitive, and it was all good-natured. And a true cutthroat game (to me) involves keeping score, which we never do – it drags down the fun quotient entirely. But a game full of shouts of laughter, of faux frustration at the number of cards in one’s hand – or the lack thereof in a neighbor’s hand! – gleeful proclamations of “UNO!,” and giggling apologies for “having” to play that mean card… THAT is an afternoon chock full of merriment!