The Very Best Part …

For 45 years my family and I have all sat around this table at Thanksgiving arguing over what the very best part of the turkey is.  Some claim the dark meat is most flavorful.  Me?  I’m a white meat girl.

But this isn’t about that at all.  It isn’t about Thanksgiving.  It is about the big surprises life can hand us, giving thanks and the very best part of THE BIG PURGE.

It started in 1965, when my husband and I were on our honeymoon in Europe.  We made a stop in Copenhagen, Denmark to see the sites and to fill our tanks with real Danish pastries and those wonderful open-faced sandwiches they prepare.  We also savored a street vendor’s never-to-be-forgotten sausages with crispy onions and a heavenly sauce.

We stepped into the government-run department store, Den Permanente,  filled with beautiful Danish modern furniture and other home furnishings.  We spotted the unique table above, sat down at it and fell in love.   It was called a fondue table:  strips of teak, around a heavy piece of slate on steel legs.  It stood only about 2 feet off the ground. The six leather and steel chairs that went with it were very cozy and comfortable.  Before we were married my husband had built a round, stone, ski house in Vermont, very contemporary in design. We knew this table and chairs would be perfect for sitting with friends on a snowy evening, dipping chunks of good french bread into a pot of nutty melted cheese, sipping a fine wine.  But it was very expensive, and then there’d be the shipping.

We revisited the store on a daily basis for about 5 days. We sat at the table, while the same salesman hovered nearby.  He finally asked us where we were from, as if he couldn’t tell, then started his sales pitch.  Our big question was why the center didn’t turn so that people all around the table would have easy access to whatever delight was ready for consuming.  So he invited us out the next day for a visit to the architect who had designed and made the table.

The next afternoon we drove to the design studio, where the table had been born.   On asking the architect why the center didn’t turn we got a big scowl and only the comment, “it isn’t supposed to turn.”  On admiring one of his lovely leather couches, we asked why he didn’t put arms on them, because we really like to get cozy on a couch and snuggle up in a corner.  Well, with that one, we just about got thrown out of the place.

On our last day in Copenhagen, we went back to the store and bought the table.  The salesman’s only comment was, “You crazy Americans come in here dressed like cowboys (we were wearing jeans) and buy one of the most expensive items in the store.”  We paid what we thought was way too much and broke the budget.

The table and chairs were exquisite in the round house and after we sold the house several years later, we took them with us and they have graced every dining room in every house we have lived in until now.

Over the last year or so, we noticed how much more difficult it was getting to scrunch down into those very low chairs.  Other friends our age would hesitate when asked about coming to dinner because it was getting difficult for them as well.  So when the folks from the local auction house came to check out some of the things we wanted to sell, they said that if we were interested in selling the table, they were sure they would have a lot of interest in it. They hold a contemporary sale twice a year and would like to have it for the one in the fall.

We asked our kids if they wanted it but with the leather chairs tattered by the cats having used them for scratching posts and really being an odd dining room set, they declined.   So we cried and whined a bit then sent it off to the auction house where it was on display all summer.  The auction was held in early November and we figured we’d go and bid adieu to all of the fondly remembered conversations we had enjoyed around that table.

The photo above was on the cover of the auction catalogue.  The auctioneer’s had done a huge amount of research and discovered that the designer was well-known around the world for his work. His two employees who came up with the very complicated design for the legs had also become highly respected designers.

On the day of the auction we were shocked to discover that the table was expected to bring up to 10 times what we had paid for it and even more shocked when the bidding began. We were told there were 11 bidders from around the world on the phone or on the computer waiting to bid on the table.  It took over thirty minutes for it to be sold to a collector/dealer of mid-century Scandinavian furniture who has a shop in Alexandria, right here, in Virginia.  The price, tattered chairs and all, ended up being over 20 times what we had paid for it 45 years ago.

We are hugely grateful for this bird-in-the-hand as we have not yet sold the house we moved out of.  So this money now called The Table Money, is going towards the upkeep of that house, as well as a few improvements we’re making on our new house.

The Moral Of The Story:  NEVER turn down anything your parents want to give you :)!!

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3 Responses to The Very Best Part …

  1. Sharon says:

    Joan, I loved this story when you spoke of it and love it more in print. It touched so many places in memory ~ family meals, falling in love with people and things ~ letting go. And, I love getting to see this infamous table.

  2. Becca says:

    Well, that is just a great story! I bet your kids are kicking themselves now 🙂

    But the best part is that the table served you so well all those years, and even after you made the decision to give it up, it’s still serving you well! Nice when that happens, isn’t it?

  3. Tee hee… yeah, I’ll be rethinking your next offer for sure…. 🙂

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