The dinner table
For most of our still-young marriage we’ve had a steady stream of ugly, hand-me-down tables holding court as sort of placeholders in our kitchen or dining room, marking the spot where “someday” we’d put a real farmhouse table, a beautiful piece of furniture large enough to accommodate our growing collection of backsides plus a couple guests. We’ve had the 400 pound, everyone’s-mom-has-one-somewhere-in-the-house 90’s extendable oak pedestal table painted in multiple colors, the hideous but breathtakingly play-doh resistant farmhouse table with inlaid blue 80’s ceramic tile surface, and the tiny 3-person IKEA bistro table wedged into our triangular sailboat kitchen in a 5th floor Roman walkup apartment, only useable due to the presence of double IKEA plastic high chairs flanking either end.
When we moved this past summer we only budgeted for two new pieces of furniture: a kitchen table and a set of bunk beds for our boys. I found a set of those I loved at Walmart of all places, and they were remarkably affordable (though after my saintly father spent 5+ hours assembling them, we discovered why…) but the table was a little trickier.
I knew with baby number 5 on the way and a dedicated, honest-to-goodness dining room in our new house I wanted a real table we could gather around for years to come, one we wouldn’t break or outgrow in a year or three. But then there was the small matter of not having a Pottery Barn budget or much luck at the thrift shops that have delivered up so much bounty over the years. I looked and looked and just could not find something that fit the bill, so I resigned myself mentally to spending $700(!!!) on something disposable from IKEA that fit the length requirement, and that was going to be that.
It probably seems silly that I was fixated on a stupid table, but for me it represented more than just a piece of furniture. I am pretty detached from home furnishings, truth be told. Our entire house is a mishmash of Goodwill finds and hand-me-downs from friends and Craigslist scores, and I’m pretty chill about my kids destroying each and every single piece of it, but a table was something different.
Growing up with my 6 siblings, the table was the real centerpiece of our home. We had most of our dinners together and it was the school in which we were educated in the fine art of debate (often times heated), politics, theology, philosophy, and what Katy so-and-so said in the lunch room that day. We had a huge, long table, and there was always room for at least a friend or a neighbor kid or two. We were all expected to take place in the (occasionally) robust discussion which, to be honest, sometimes included raised voices and blood pressures.
I longed for my kids to have the same experience, and I felt strongly that the thing needed to be at least 7 feet long for our purposes. Would a smaller table work? Sure, and we’ve been making it work for 7+ years. But I wanted to have a longer term solution in place so that we could start early, schooling them in the fine art of dinnertime banter. And with 5 little butts in seats, it was getting pretty cramped around a table built for 6, particularly when any of our plentiful extended family were present.
Towards the end of the summer, after our 5th? 6th? house contract had fallen through and I was beginning to doubt we’d ever actually be living in a house we’d need to furnish, I attended a baby shower for a friend and I’m telling you, when I walked into her beautiful home, I laid eyes on the most gorgeous three dimensional platform for supporting dinner plates and elbows that the world has ever seen.
I gasped and asked her where it was from. Arhaus? Pottery Barn? Crate and Barrel? DID SHE DRIVE TO WACO AND HAVE CHIP AND JOJO HAND CARVE IT THEMSELVES WHILE SINGING PRAISE AND WORSHIP SONGS?
Nope, her husband made it. And for a super reasonable amount of money. Like crummy pre-fab IKEA table money.
“He could make you one too, I’m sure.”
Dead. I was sold. I was so excited, and although our ridiculous house hunt pushed the delivery date back a few times, by September we had our very own dreamy, custom-built dining room table (and matching bench!) which comfortably seats ten for a fraction of what it would have cost in a fancy, built-overseas-in-poor-labor-conditions retail outlet. My girlfriend even texted me a couple pictures of the process as it came together in her husband’s workshop in their backyard.
I love it so much. I love that every time we sit down to a meal we’re adding to a string of linked experiences that will stretch across the next 20 years. I love that he shellacked the thing with a billion coats of polycrylic per my request and that I can clean it with diaper wipes. Man, this is living.
What I love the most though? That it was built with love, and that God answered my silly, insignificant desire for a beautiful piece of furniture to gather our family around three times a day (and to work from too, as it turns out.)
If you’re local to Colorado, I’d love to put you in touch with Ryan at Blue Nails Woodcraft (read the poem that inspired the name at the end of this post) and see about getting one of these pretties custom built for your family, too. He can go the gauntlet from sturdy and no frills to high end artisanal craftsmanship, and the thrill of custom designing your own piece of furniture is something that I imagine few people in my generation have gotten to experience.
*For pricing and customization information, call Ryan at (720) 933-1974 or email email@example.com*
From our big ‘ol table and the whole Uebbing crew, a blessed and beautiful Thanksgiving to you and yours.
Joseph and Child Jesus
By Father Leonard Feeney
Whenever the bright blue nails would drop,
Down on the floor of his carpenter’s shop,
St. Joseph, prince of carpenter men,
Would stoop to gather them up again;
For he feared for two little sandals sweet
And very easy to pierce they were
As they pattered over the lumber there
And rode on two little sandals sweet.
But alas on a hill between earth and heaven,
One day-two nails into a cross were driven
And fastened it firm to the Sacred Feet
Where once rode two little sandals sweet.
And Christ and His Mother looked off in death,
Afar-to the valley of Nazareth
Where the carpenter shop was spread with dust
And the little blue nails all packed in rust
Slept in a box on a window sill;
And Joseph lay sleeping under the hill.