The first time I saw the photo, my first thought was, “That’s my son.” But in fact, I was assured that the young man in the photo, who was standing in the dirt road, was actually my grandfather Glen, who had died before I was born. I’d never met him, and yet, I knew that stance. It was so familiar because my son often stood in this same pose, looking thoughtful, listening intently, or simply pondering his surroundings.
This same son grew up hearing stories of Glen, my father’s father. One of my dad’s favorite stories was of the cherry table Glen rescued from a farmer’s yard in Quebec. Each summer Glen and my grandmother Marjorie (my namesake) traveled to Canada in search of antique furniture for Glen to refinish in his workshop. Somehow they came across a farm in which the chicken coops’ walls were constructed from a cherry-wood table. Presumably legs and all were still attached. Glen offered to buy the table from the farmer, but his offer was refused. “Nope, I need the chicken coop,” was the answer. Glen offered to build the farmer a new chicken coop. Then could he purchase the cherry table? They struck a deal, and the table, presumably in pretty tough shape, returned with my grandparents to South Florida and was lovingly restored to its former glory.
The boards of this table are wide, the gleam of the wood is bright, and the grain is beautiful. Over the years many family meals were shared at this table, and after my grandparents died, my aunt and uncle enjoyed it in their home and use it to share many dinners with family and friends. Recently they sold their house and were unable to take the large table with them to their new living quarters. My son said they would be glad to have the table at their farm in Tennessee. And so the table was transported once again, this time on to another generation, and back to the farm.
We visited my son’s and daughter-in-law’s farm recently and shared multiple meals at this same table that was rescued from the chicken yard oh, so many years ago. And so my grandchildren will grow up hearing the story of that grandfather from years past, who had eyes to see beyond the grime of the chicken yard to understand the potential that lay underneath the grit and muck.
In another part of the farmhouse hangs the picture of this grandfather as a young man, standing as his great-grandson does so often, arms crossed in front of him, looking intently, taking in his surroundings. The table has come home, as it were, back to the farm. And the story continues.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress. She is a co-author of the recent community history, Bellingham Now and Then.