The giant oak table and chairs her father built practically from scratch were the only things in the dining room these days. Laura covered it with Grandma’s white lace crochet table cloth and went back in the kitchen for the rest of the place settings.
She carefully pressed and folded white linen napkins, slightly yellowed with time, and laid one out at each chair. Next was Great Granny’s china with the blue Forget-me-nots, and her mother’s bridal sterling service. She placed her cousin Elspeth’s pewter candle sticks on each end of the table, perfectly framing Aunt Margaret’s crystal centerpiece bowl, which she filled earlier with lush pink and pale yellow roses from Uncle Stanley’s garden. Lastly, she set out the Waterford water goblets and wine glasses she purchased with money she put aside each month for the first thirteen years of her marriage. Laura then set the chairs neatly in front of each place setting, and smoothed out the small puckers in the table cloth. Striking a match, she carefully lit the candles, lowered the lights, and sat in her usual place, just to the left of the head of the table, next to father.
The first course was silence; a moment of stillness to take it all in, followed by the second course’s generous serving of melancholy. When the tears started to drop, the main course of happy memories of times spent around this table was served. Jokes and laughter, lively debates, sometimes music and song, even the occasional tantrum marked by the harsh scrape of a swiftly pushed back chair and an angry napkin thrown down on the table. All of life’s joys were shared at this table. All of life’s major announcements were made at this table. All of life’s sorrows found solace at this table. Every Saturday, sometimes Sundays as well, and every birthday and holiday celebration culminated around this table.
Wiping her eyes, Laura smiled as the dessert course was at last served, made of warm, loving feelings and contentment, topped with the usual swirl of images of her children at various ages, her mother, grandmother, in-laws, father, grandfather, aunties and cousins, uncles, her brothers and their families…and her Harry; her dear, darling Harry… all applauding and singing as someone blew out the candles on a birthday cake, or the blue flame on her flambé Christmas pudding.
The world was such a full and wonderful place when her family was alive.