Turning The Tables

by Maria Theresa Maggi on November 16, 2014

Thanksgiving table from above 2012

Thanksgiving on the oak table 2012

Moving to my new house entailed lots of cleaning out and downsizing. Two decades ago when I first moved into the Asbury Street house my Mom came to visit and we had fun looking for antique furniture that would fit inside it. My great uncle had given me a small sum of money and I decided to use it for this purpose. My mother, generous almost to a fault in this department, also chipped in. And thus I ended up with several  nice pieces: a ceramic hand-painted clock in the shape of a frying pan that came with me to my new kitchen, some very interesting lamps, an unusual piece called a chimney cupboard, a pie save, and a pretty oak dresser. The most elaborate addition to my new-old home back then was a round claw foot oak dining table with six matching chairs, probably made about 10 years or so after the old house on Asbury was built.

I had already inherited an unusual kitchen table from my grandmother. It is metal with collapsible sides and chrome legs in art deco style.  My mother and uncle grew up eating around it. But it is very much a kitchen table. And in the Asbury Street house it just wasn’t “right” for the dining area so it lived folded up in the kitchen. But the round claw foot oak table was just perfect.

During the years at the Asbury Street house, many wonderful dinners, conversations and plans were hatched around that oak table. The question that would define Mike’s growing up years, “How do you get a skate park in your town?” was first asked over dinner at that table. Later on, the boys would count change and roll quarters, dimes and even pennies at it as they began the long process of having a skate park built in Moscow. Sometimes it had an old restaurant tablecloth with the signs and houses of the zodiac drawn on it so I could illustrate the dynamic of planetary aspects when a client came for a reading. When I started drawing and painting again, it was my “studio.” It was also often an altar to the seasons, with fruit and herbs drying in baskets on it in the fall, and candles to light up the dark burning on it in winter.  A dear friend who has helped me with housework and errands for over a decade and loves to sew made me four table cloths to mark the seasons, so in many ways the table was the wheel that turned the year.

But the times I remember most around that table are holiday dinners, especially Thanksgiving dinners. While our Thanksgivings are quite casual, we still honor a few traditions that mean a lot to me. Of course there’s no turkey on the menu anymore, but there’s always a turkey at the table. This one, from my friend Katherine:

Wooden Turkey

It goes very well with another tradition I instituted many years ago that we still observe. I get out my Medicine Cards book and we read about turkey medicine. In many Native American traditions, turkey embodies the spirit of potlatch, or “give-away” and is sometimes called the “Give-Away Eagle.” It’s a sign of strength and honor to give to those who are in need. Receiving turkey card means you are being given a gift, which may be material, or more ethereal, like a beautiful sunset or an unexpected smile. After we read about the spirit of the turkey, we each say what we are thankful for. Some of my best memories are of what those who gathered around my table had to say about feeling thankful.

One year long ago when my parents were still alive and relatively healthy, they came with my sister for the holiday. My family has a tendency to talk all at once, and I wanted to be sure everyone got a chance to have a real turn before someone interrupted, so I introduced them to the concept of the talking stick. I used a beautifully decorated branch from my old Hawthorne tree that a friend had made into a “magic wand” for me. My Dad was a soft spoken man most of the time, and was often eclipsed by my mother and sister’s more extroverted personalities. When the stick was handed to him, he held it up and beamed a huge smile. Then he said, “I have the stick. No one else can talk. It’s my turn. And if I want it to be quiet, it will be quiet.” We all laughed, and then we were quiet, and waited. My Dad had something very serious and moving to say that day that I never forgot. And he never forgot about having the stick. At other times when they’d all begin interrupting each other someone would shout,  “Maria, we need the stick!” So I guess you could say my family first made an attempt to listen quietly to each other around that old oak table.

Another Thanksgiving I’ll always treasure is the one when the family I wrote about in Pumpkin Pie in the Free World spent the holiday with us. The house they were renting had burned down, and they lived with me for about six months. I wasn’t sure whether they’d go for the thankfulness tradition, but they did. Kelly and Mike were still in college and they came for dinner together. I will always remember when it was each their turn, they said they were thankful for each other. It was the first Thanksgiving my Mom was no longer living, and we used the silver she left me in her honor. I will also always remember the young woman, called Running Girl in Pumpkin Pie in the Free World, not one for gushing sentiment, who looked me in the eye after that dinner and said, “Thank you, Maria–just thank you.” One of the best “thank you”s of my life.

When it came time to move to my new house, I had hoped the oak table would somehow fit in the small living room. But when Mike and Kelly arrived from Portland to help me, it became instantly obvious that it was way too big. However, my grandmother’s black and white metal table from the 30’s, which is the same age as my new house, looked like it had always belonged there.

art deco kitchen table from my grandmother

Suddenly I needed a home for my oak table.

I had consulted an antique dealer downtown and knew that solid oak tables of its vintage were no longer “hot” and that I would not even be able to get what I had paid for it. I still had all the matching chairs, though one of them had spent time upstairs in Mike’s room during his junior high and high school years, and as a result had been what I call “teenagered.” Still, it could be fixed easily and all those matching chairs were a definite plus.

I had about a week to sell the table. Mike helped me post an add on Craig’s list, which I then thought to post on facebook. Much to my surprise and delight, one of Mike’s friends from childhood, now a grown man I think of as one of my “second sons,” posted that he wanted to buy it. I was thrilled. He had just bought a home for the first time, an older house (which he is handy enough to be doing  great remodeling work on himself), and the table would go great in it.

He, too, lives in Portland, but his parents still live here, so they graciously came and picked up the table and chairs, storing it until Bobby could come and get it, or they had occasion to bring it to him. I wanted him to have it even if he couldn’t pay full price for it (or any price) but he insisted on paying for it. Recently, it made the trip over to Portland. Here it is,  along with Bobby’s dog Charlie, ready to be the place where meals are shared, and new plans are hatched. And since Bobby is a professional beer brewer at independent microbrewery Upright Brewing, probably some glasses of fine libation will be raised as well.

Bobby's oak table and Charlie

I’ve known Bobby since he was ten. I met him while standing in line at the grocery store because he came up to me and introduced himself as Mike’s friend. After that he said simply,  “You must be Mike’s mother.” He shook my hand and said, “It’s nice to meet you.” All by himself. Ten years old. I never forgot it.

In the following years he spent lots of time at our house, ate around the table, made me and Mike laugh. He was the only one that could get our golden retriever to wear her empty food dish like a hat.

So in a very real sense, the table is still in the family. And so are the blue dishes Bobby and Mike made their super burritos on in high school. I threw them in for good measure. This year, Mike and Kelly and I will get out that little turkey and put it in the middle of my grandmother’s black and white table. Among the many things I will be grateful for is that my old oak table has found a new happy home at Bobby’s house.

I know when people downsize, they talk about it in terms of purging. I guess that was true for me with some things. But with something like this table, it’s less of a purge and more of a privilege to pass something dearly loved on to someone dearly loved. I can’t think of anything to be more thankful for than that kind of blessing. It sure feels like a lovely way to celebrate the spirit of turkey.

Maria (moonwatcher)

And: a unique holiday pie, coming soon. . . .




Leave a Comment

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Pam November 17, 2014 at 3:06 am

What a beautiful story about the table, Maria. So glad that you were able to find a wonderful new home for the table where many more memories will be created!


2 moonwatcher November 17, 2014 at 8:33 am

Thanks Pam! 🙂 And yes, I couldn’t have dreamed up a better home for it if I tried. 🙂


3 Carol November 17, 2014 at 7:34 am

Beautiful thoughts and table. Great feelings to you and your family and friends. I always look forward to reading your posts.



4 moonwatcher November 17, 2014 at 8:32 am

Welcome, Carol, and thank you so much for your lovely comment. Great feelings back to you and yours as well!


5 Marge Evans November 17, 2014 at 9:25 am

so glad your table went to someone who will enjoy it. sadly no one wants our wood furniture. I read a story in the NY Times that young people just want IKEA. Or their homes are so small they eat dinner in from of the television. very cute dog!


6 moonwatcher November 17, 2014 at 9:28 am

Thanks, Marge! And yes, if it’s not IKEA, then the antiques that are hot now are “mid-century”–that is, meaning mid 20th century, when we were kids!! LOL I was happy, though, that besides the table, the young guys that moved my oak dresser were very impressed with it and how it was made. And isn’t Charlie the cutest? It causes a lot of excitement when he appears in a photo he’s so darn adorable. 🙂


7 Donna Betts November 17, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Dear Maria — I always love your thoughtful life sharing.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I will need to rethink what I do this year as it is one of the few Thanksgivings that I will be on my own. I think serving in our local Long Beach Rescue Mission might be something good to do. Thank you for taking me on a sweet trip down memory lane of your past Thanksgivings.
With love, Donna B.


8 moonwatcher November 17, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Hi Donna, thank you for your kind words. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I like your idea of serving in the Rescue Mission as a way of spending the holiday. A long time ago I did that at a Fransciscan Church–a dinner for the homeless–and it is one of the best and most powerful Thanksgving experiences I’ve ever had. Whatever you choose, many blessings to you this holiday. I’m thankful to have wonderful reader–like you.


9 Nicole O'Shea November 18, 2014 at 9:43 am

Tables are so much more than tables, aren’t they? What a sweet story, the perfect resolution! I love the paint color in your new home! And the turkey!




10 moonwatcher November 18, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Thanks Nicolio 🙂 I agree–a table is what happens on it and around it. And so glad you like the color scheme in the new house. I fell in love with it too. (And of course the turkey) <3 xo


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