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Attic Treasures: Table Talk
8/13/2014
A dining room table serves up tales of love, lima beans and the passing of generations.

Covered with mail in my family's dining room is a square table with fold-down sides and four chairs with needlepoint seats. In the tables hidden drawer, we discovered a note written long ago by the previous owner, my husband's grandmother. “Every natural opening bid produces three tricks under most any circumstances,” wrote Dorothy (Miller) Lyon McNamara in her bridge notepad. She had often played bridge at this table, and kept her strategies and secrets hidden inside. Our discovery revealed just one of many stories in the life of this simple table-and-chair set, a prominent heirloom in the history of three families. If you own any furniture more than a generation old, take the time to gather stories about it from family members. You'll be amazed at the tales hidden in an old table, chair or cabinet. When I interviewed family members about this piece, a love story unfolded.

When Dorothy Miller of Rochester, NY, married Stanley Lyon of Boston in 1928, her mother presented the young couple with the table. (Some members of the family disagree and think that piece came from the Lyons. You, too, may find the true origins of a piece of furniture have been lost or garbled over the years.) The young married couple used it as a dining table for themselves and eventually their two children. Later, they purchased a set of eight chairs to go with it. Dorothy's daughter recalls that throughout her childhood, her mother patiently created needlepoint seats for each chair. When someone noticed her work, Dorothy would say it took her eight years to finish those seats. Even today, the signs of wear suggest the order in which she completed them.

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