The making of a family heirloom

By Kristen Tribe | Published Saturday, December 15, 2012

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The day after Christmas 2011 my entire family crawled under our new dinner table searching for the signature of the builder. He’s not famous. His work doesn’t appear in galleries.

But each piece is crafted carefully and with immense love.

The builder is my dad.

Kristen Tribe

Kristen Tribe

The beautiful, oak farm table was a Christmas gift from my parents, and it is one of my most treasured possessions. Upon delivery, he casually mentioned that he signed the underside, but he wouldn’t reveal where – a little insight into his mischevious tendencies.

So there we all were on Dec. 26. I was on my hands and knees, the little Tribes squatted beside me, and my husband lay on his back at the other end of the 8-foot table, all straining our eyes in the darkness.

We eventually found it – Larry Talley – scrawled in Sharpie. It warmed my heart.

Upon further reflection in the months that followed, I realized that for most of my life I have gathered with family around tables built by my dad.

My extended family has had our fair share of hand-me-downs and garage sale finds, and even some purchased brand-new in the store. But the tables built by dad are special.

When I was 5, he made a small wooden table for my Grandma, which was to be used as the kids’ table. It resembled a picnic table in that instead of chairs, he made tiny benches, and it was wedged between the refrigerator and the main table in my Grandma’s small home.

My cousins and I share lots of fun memories sitting shoulder to shoulder, shuffling green beans on our plates and trying to keep those benches from tipping over when it got raucous.

Dad also built the dining table at my childhood home. My parents had the house built, doing much of the interior work themselves, and then my dad filled it with furniture. He built bookcases, a bedroom suite, desks, and a gun cabinet.

For the dining table, he used a whiskey barrel, acquired somewhere around San Marcos, for the base and built a round pine top. It was so large that you couldn’t reach across it.

Not only did we eat there, we put puzzles together on it, we occasionally did our homework there, my mom graded papers, and it was project central just prior to the county fair.

I think that’s where Dad taught me how to play poker, too.

Over the last 12 months, we have done many of these very things at our new table. Most importantly, we’ve shared countless meals, we’ve laughed, cried and celebrated birthdays.

It’s been piled high with mail, school work and folded laundry. But its beauty always seems new when those things are cleared away.

It has the makings of a family heirloom, and I hope it will be used for generations to come. The signature may fade, but my wish is that the story never will.

It’s another piece in a long line of furniture built lovingly by my dad, and it’s an honor to call it mine.

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