I have this old oak table, you see, that’s been around for about seventy years (as I have) and it sits in the middle of what is laughingly called my dining room. Once upon a time it was a dining table, first my grandmother’s, then my mom’s and for the last thirty years or so, mine.

But we don’t “dine” in the dining room anymore. Well, not often. Occasionally we have company for a holiday dinner, but we usually end up with Hubby constructing a b-i-i-g table in the living room so it can hold all the goodies. Our dining room table can hold plates and silverware for six if two of them don’t mind winding their feet around the clawfoot table legs, but there just isn’t room to also have serving dishes. I don’t know about your family but our group likes having seconds readily available, so there’s none of this nonsense about leaving the rest of the mashed potatoes in the kitchen in favor of a pretty table.

I don’t mean to imply that my table is a skimpy little thing. It’s perfectly adequate as tables go, and it has been a joy for several generations of kids who have eaten and studied there, have drawn pictures to delight their parents, and played many a game of Scrabble or Monopoly on its surface. The table is basically long and skinny, but wait! There’s a little ring on the side that just calls out to be pulled, and when that happens, the table shakes a little and separates in the middle, and lo and behold a secret leaf pops up from its hiding place under the tabletop.

My grandmother had the table when I was very little, and I can remember the first time I discovered the ring. All the cousins were there visiting (as we often did) and we played games around, on and under the table. (We knew enough to be careful, but if the furniture got scratched, Grandma didn’t worry too much; kids were more important than wood.) I spotted the ring and asked the others what it might be.

“I don’t know,” Danny said, “and I don’t care. It’s my turn to be the Sheriff.” We had only one cap gun, so we had to take turns. Well, as long as he was going to be that way, we girls would just stop playing cowboys and investigate this intriguing new toy instead. We invited Grandma to join in, and she revealed the secret of the ring. We were entranced by this engineering marvel. Imagine a table that had extra food space just hanging there underneath it!

For many visits after that, the table featured in our play. If we had a store, it was the checkout counter. If we wanted to go camping, a sheet over the top created the perfect tent. Sometimes we’d surprise Grandma by picking her some flowers–from her beloved garden of course–and they got snipped and clipped and vased and put in the place of honor, in the middle of the table.

Eventually, we all grew up, and the table reverted to, well, just a table. I sit there sometimes to write my stories, sometimes to pay bills, sometimes to pull out one of the big boxes of old photos and spread the memories out on the smooth surface. I know it can’t be worth a lot of money. My family never had enough to buy the high-quality stuff. But it’s worth a lot to me. After all, it is (as I am) an antique.

I’ll see you again, after the commercial.