a short history of a table

I was married 63 years ago.  My grandparents gave me cash for a wedding present: a crisp new one hundred dollar bill.  That was a LOT of money in those days. I had never seen that much money in one piece of paper before.  I bought a table with it.  This is where history blends in with astonishment.  Bill and I went shopping and picked out the table and had it delivered - to my home, as we were not yet married and had to have a place to put it.  I remember it was delivered to the front door around supper time and I received it  and gave the delivery man the hundred dollar bill and he gave me my change: a nickel.  Our best man was seated in the dining room and saw the exchange and gasped.  

"Was that what I thought it was?" he said.  ""A hundred dollar bill?"  And then, "Did that table cost a hundred dollars?"  


Before I describe the table let me point out  facts more astonishing than the price of it - very high in those days, incredibly low these days. The points to notice are as follows: there were no delivery charges;  it was same-day delivery; it was C.O.D. (that means Cash on Delivery); there was no tax.

It was an up-down table, coffee table height that you could pull up to dining table height, with a drop-leaf on each of the long sides that made it into a square  surface seating four. And that surface was solid mahogany.  

Ay, there's the rub, and I do mean rub.  Instructions came with the table  not only on the operation of the up-down mechanism but also on the care of the wood.  It needed weekly (!) polishing.  I managed that for about a month and then I began to slip-slide.  I was having enough trouble getting used to washing dishes after every meal; that took me a long time to get reconciled to.  As for silver, remember this was another era. I had sterling silver ornaments and tools, like little ashtrays, a cigarette lighter and urn, candy dishes, and so on.  An aunt of Bill's came to visit who was short-sighted and she came into the living room and said, "Oh, my, look at all your brass!"  The silver needed a lot of polishing, too.  My, how things do change.

I did care for that table, though, and gave it more conscientious thought and attention long after I had retired the silver.  (The cigarette paraphernalia were the first to go.)  After Bill died I down-sized several times and eventually the table went into my younger son's home where it disintegrated.   The surface was badly scarred and disfigured and the up-down mechanism finally broke down. It ended up on a big-item pick-up pile on the street.  

There in a microcosm, a short history of one table, is an illustration of how the world has changed in 60 years, not just the world and things and appreciation but attitudes.  Bill and I were among those responsible for the Boomers, the huge numbers of people born between 1945 and 1965.  When we began we weren't looking in their direction.  We were looking back, expected and trying to fulfill our parents' dreams that had been arrested first by the depression and second by World War Two.  I didn't know who I was for a long time. 

Well, in a way, I still don't. Know. Who I am.