Most of my adult life existed without owning a formal dining room. However, once we knew we were going to build our dream home, there was no question about it having to include the “Formal Dining” room. We seemed to go for quite some time after building our house to actually have a use for that fancy room that sat just off the kitchen, overlooking the front gardens and the creek outside the large picture glass window.
It was the Thanksgiving that we had my late grandmother, Wilma Pryor, visiting when we first used the room for its intended purpose. Back then, before children, we had lots of time to entertain and visit with neighbors in the area. This particular Thanksgiving, we had our neighbor friends from up off the main road (the main road was the paved road that passed our gravel road), Harry and Katherine Robertson. Grandma Wilma seemed to enjoy visiting with Harry and Katherine, so we took the opportunity to include our neighbors in our holiday meal and to celebrate the use of our very own dining room.
We had met Harry and Katherine by an accidental encounter or excuse, however you prefer to look at it, through the tale of a little dog I called “Buddy.” Of course, the tale of Buddy is another story for another time. Katherine was a retired nurse but still and always will in my mind, a concert pianist. On one of my very first unannounced visits to their home up on the main road, I stopped in only to have her husband Harry meet me at the door with his index finger pushed across his lips in the “Shhh” position and then motion me to follow him. As I stepped through the opened screened door, I could hear the sounds of a record playing beautiful classical piano melodies. I followed Harry through their kitchen and into their formal dining room, only to find the sounds of the music growing louder as we progressed. The farther we traveled the more it became obvious that this was not a recording but rather, live music. Harry had built his home such that the formal dining room was open into a hallway that separated it from the drawing room. As we neared the drawing room, it became perfectly clear that the woman seated at the full blown grand piano was his wife, Katherine, and that the music emanating from therein was from her and not the recording I had first thought. This was just the first of many wonderful discoveries we had with the wonderful and entertaining elderly couple. Harry was also himself a very talented portrait artist and learned individual, so that any visit with the Robertsons was never a short visit.
That Thanksgiving, with Grandma Wilma, Harry and Katherine, seemed to be the perfect initiation for our new formal dining room. Sheryl, my wife, and Wilma had worked hard to prepare the perfect meal which was quite distinguished. We sat around with our plates full, discussing various topics as the meal progressed. I can remember sitting there and thinking to myself how this was how people that had “Made It” lived. However, part of me knew I was much more comfortable on that bench at the end of grandma Tron’s kitchen table. There in that humble farmhouse back in Indiana, there was no room for a formal dining room. The kitchen table was the central location for all things in life, from Morning Prayer, grand reunions or mourning the loss of loved ones, it all happened at grandma’s kitchen table. That Thanksgiving, as I reflected back to those days gone by while seated at one of the most lavish Thanksgiving Dinners I had ever known, I was thankful not only for our beautiful dining room and family and friends that were there with us that day, but also for all that had made me who I am and for that, I was most thankful of all.