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Around that dining room table

Our cozy little house over on Boggs Street was mighty small by today’s standards, but to us, it fit just fine, including that little bitty dining room that was near about filled to capacity with that dining table that was a gathering place for us and many more. The four of us sat down together for breakfast, dinner and supper just about every day we were all available, which was most of the time.  Whether we needed them all or not for the meal at hand, Ma had me set four places with her silver knives, forks and spoons, and if we had company, include a desert fork since we were for sure going to have desert for company, and most of the time for us at dinner and supper. We didn’t ask Ma  if we had desert or not, but rather asked her what we were having for desert.

We’d sit down, hold hands and take turns asking the blessing, but we never missed that blessing part.  I’m chuckling right now to remember hearing a jaybird yelling outside while we ate breakfast. Billy would look over at Daddy, who would nod his okay, and off would go my brother to down that pesky Blue Jay with his trusty BB gun, hold him up in front of the window for all to see, and then Billy would report back in to finish his breakfast. I think about that often as I sit at my own breakfast room table, and enjoy watching Jay birds, among other species, gobbling up the seeds I throw out for them each morning, but knowing they are not subject to get shot at by a BB gun this day and time.

I don’t honestly know how that many folks could fit around that table when we had company, but Ma always figured out how to feed whoever was there. Never will forget Preacher Elsberry, who served our Linden Presbyterian Church plus one of two in the south end of the county, coming home after church to eat with us. I challenged him to a roll eating contest, and won, although I’m pretty sure the preacher let me win. Of course, on Sundays, whether the preacher was there or not, we were going to have roast beef, potatoes and gravy, and other stuff. Seems like I never could fill up on those potatoes and gravy Ma made.

Pam McPherson sent me some pictures from Linden Facebook of Charles Rentz, who served over 30 years as our Circuit Clerk before he retired in the seventies. Charles was born with no lower arms, and no lower legs, yet he was the most amazing man to watch roll a cigarette, drive a car, produce a beautiful handwritten letter, and just about anything else you care to name. I always figured one reason I never stared at afflicted folks was on account of Charles used to come home with Daddy from the courthouse, and eat dinner with us … or lunch if you want to call it that. I just took for granted that he was like the rest of us, although he did admit to me once that he sometimes had a little trouble keeping the peas from falling off his fork.

I just happened to think about tomato aspic for whatever reason.  When my uncle Billy Cooper was eating with us, Ma would make two things of aspic. A large regular bowl of it, and another smaller bowl that was seasoned real hot.  That one was for Uncle Billy and me, and we had to wash it down with that bad tasting Linden water or tea we used to have. Oh, it was okay with ice, but don’t venture a big gulp if it was lukewarm.

Finally, the other use for that table. Ping pong. Take all the chairs out, and how Daddy, Billy and I still found room to play table tennis is beyond my recollection, but we had some knock down, drag out games between the three of us, plus house guests if they were a mind to play with us around that famous, heartwarming dining room table over yonder on that dirt street where we lived and loved and played, back in days gone bye.

— Tom Boggs is a columnist for the Demopolis Times and a native of Marengo County. His column,“Days Gone Bye,” appears weekly.

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, January 29 issue of the Demopolis Times.)