The Butcher-Block TablePosted: October 27, 2009
It’s surprising, when the person is gone, what objects or possessions have meaning. With Mama, I wanted some of her kitchen things, like bread pans and muffin tins and cookie sheets and a jelly roll pan. I brought home her two dresser lamps and put them in my bedroom. I have a candy dish, an antique sugar bowl she used every day for her tea, and a framed Irish Blessing. I also kept her pink chenille robe. I slipped it on yesterday morning and pulled it close around me, and when I stuck my hand in its pocket, I found a hair net. Mama was big on hair nets and the very sight of it crumpled me.
My son was the first to set his eyes on one particular piece of furniture that best defined his grandmother — a butcher-block table in the middle of her small kitchen. Mama had it made back in the Seventies, before the grandchildren were born. She took an old desk from the school where she was principal. She painted it and applied wallpaper that matched the kitchen walls to its sides. Then she had the lumber company make a butcher block and glue it to the top of the desk. It was put together with layers of wood and protected with cooking oil.
For forty years, Mama made bread, cookies, pies, jelly rolls, and cakes on the butcher-block. Every meal was either prepared or served here. When the grandchildren began to come along, each one had ample opportunities to stand on a little stool and help Mamaw knead bread or cut out biscuits or cookies. Even my dog had a turn; every time we’d visit, the cocker spaniel would stand with both front paws on the tabletop and watch Mamaw fix each dish.
Mama loved that table and wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world. Now it is in the kitchen of my son. He removed the butcher block, sanded it, and built a new base and legs. He applied a copper patina basecoat and antique black crackle topcoat. He put wheels on the bottom so they can move it around conveniently.
The butcher-block table has new life in a new home with two new babies. Two more little children to grow up watching their mama and daddy carry on traditions — the passing of the spatula to a new generation.