Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Dining Room Suite

I remember when my parents bought it. A mahogany Duncan Fife style, reproduction, dining room suite by Bassett. They went shopping at Tepperman's. An adult's only expedition. But the excitement surrounding the suites' arrival was visceral.

There had never been a dining room suite because there had never been a dining room before. The 1950's house my father built had a kitchen with a bay window and built-in, restaurant style banquette, upholstered professionally by my mother. The table with dropped leaves for expansion and crafted by my father, was clear birch on a wrought iron pedastal. So my mother, blessed with the gift of hospitality, had for years, entertained at our kitchen table. A dining room for entertaining and a proper dining suite was a luxury which she anticipated when we moved.

For over forty years, the dining room suite has been central to our family celebrations. Christmases, all high holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and showers have been commemorated around this festive board. The suite had a sideboard for serving and a bow fronted china cabinet, both with lots of storage. The chairs, my mother claimed, were never the chairs which they had been shown when they purchased the set. In typical fashion, my parents didn't want to make a fuss and never followed this up. Recovered several times by both my father and me, the chairs did show the least elegance and the most wear and tear of all the pieces in this set.

So now, it falls to me to make the decision to sell the suite in order to make room for more guests at Dawsonwood Cottage. It is not a decision which everyone in the family greets with joy. The dining room suite has meaning somehow beyond itself, representing family unity, good times, times of struggle. Conversations. Great gastronomic creations.

The table moved into the living room to make room for a hospital bed when my father was dying. My mother's fine china watched over him as he slept. At the dining table, my mother and I wrote our thank yous for condolence gifts and kindnesses. Later that same year, I would assemble wedding invitations for my younger daughter at the very same table. Over the last seven years, I have been the one to decorate the table at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Now I am the one taking it apart.

My mother is failing. Her meticulous entertaining finished. Her memory faint. She lives in a retirement home and visits to her former home are tiring for her. It is time for another of the many transitions which Judith Viorst calls Necessary Losses.

We all have remembrance, and I more than any. Perhaps that is why it is easier for me to let the dining room suite go. I remember when the delivery men carried it, reverentially, into our home. I saw it go out today, faded but still grand. Time for practiced detachment. Time for releasing. There's a few good Christmases left in that suite for another family. Let it be.


daisymarie said...

Practiced detatchment. That's a hard one, and yet I think I understand...though I am very slow to practice.

Thank you for the opportunity to reminisce...both about your wonderful experience and my own.

steph said...

Oh Connie I can understand how hard this is. I too have a suite, my great aunts, and it has been the place upon which food has drawn together many exquisite moments.
Practiced detatchment - I will hold that in the Light for you as you wait for that space to be filled with something that will begin some new traditions.

annie said...

Necessary losses, dang it, sometimes I hate 'em! I tend to hang on to sentimental things too tightly. But I suppose if we never let go, our hands are never empty enough to receive other blessings.

bobbie said...

oh dear friend, i know this was a hard decision - i'm so proud of you!

on with that 3 year plan! hurray!

spiritual ingenue said...

this was beautiful- i can so relate. i grew up in a house of 8 children and miss our table to this day. part of me is convinced that we should all have a government alloted plot of land to hold our most precious keepsakes. however, for a packrat like myself, i'd need a LOT O' LAND.

thanks for sharing this.