I grew up with a family of eight — my parents, three brothers, two sisters, and me. The earliest memories I have of our family’s Thanksgiving celebrations take place in White Plains, New York.
We didn’t have a table big enough to fit all of us. So, for Thanksgiving, my dad would make one by taking an old door from the basement, adding a tablecloth, then laying it on top of one of our playpens. After we added some mismatched chairs, we were in business. Despite our makeshift surroundings, we loved being together and sharing the meal.
My parents never had extra money when I was growing up, but one year, they got a $500 tax refund check. That was unusual, and my mom thought the best use would be to get some matching chairs to go around our “table.”
She’d heard about an estate sale where 12 chairs were being sold. The sale happened to be in Scarsdale, N.Y. — a real ritzy area. When my mom pulled up to the house, it had a wrought-iron gate, and a butler met her at the door. She knew right then she was out of her league.
The seller didn’t just have chairs, but a whole dining set — an enormous oak table, 12 leather chairs, and two matching credenzas. The seller explained that her husband had been transferred to Europe, so they had to sell everything right away. They’d tried to sell the dining set to several furniture stores, but it was so big that no one wanted it taking up all of their showroom space.
My mom apologized for wasting the woman’s time, explaining “I only have this $500 tax refund check.” Of course, that was far too little for this amazing set and she saw herself out.
To her surprise, the woman called her back a few days later, offering the dining set for $1,500 on an installment plan. The $500 my mom already had could be the down payment. My mother had to refuse, explaining that she was on a fixed income and could not spend more than $500.
A day or two later, the woman called back again, now sounding very frustrated, and offered my mother the table and chairs for $500. It was a great deal, but my mom demurred. “I don’t know,” she said. “If I’m going to have that huge table, I think I’m going to need the credenzas to store all of my dishes in. I just don’t see a use for the table without them.”
With steam probably shooting from her ears, the seller explained that the credenzas alone were worth at least $500 a piece — but she relented. The only condition was that the table, chairs, and the credenzas had to be picked up that day!
My dad did just that, but when he got it home there was a big problem — the table wouldn’t fit through the front door! My mom thought she had just bought the most expensive picnic table in history. Thankfully, my dad figured out how to disassemble the table, get it inside, and put it back together, but that was a stressful moment!
It became our Thanksgiving table. For 25 years, throughout childhood, college, and adulthood, it was where we shared all of our holiday meals. My brothers, sisters, and I all agree that this enormous, special table was Thanksgiving to us. And it always felt right to give thanks while sitting at such a wonderful and treasured purchase.
A few years ago, my mom moved and had to sell the table. (It was still in great shape.) We all feel truly blessed to have had something that followed us for more than 25 years and is featured in so many amazing memories. It just goes to show you that sometimes things come out of the blue, and they work out just the way they’re meant.
Whether you’ll be spending this Thanksgiving eating off of an enormous table, an old door, or even your lap, the thing that matters most is the memories you’ll make. Take this opportunity to break bread and share safely with one another as we come out of this pandemic. Happy Thanksgiving!