The table wasn't quite big enough for the entire family to gather around for Sunday Dinner though, when we were back home.
This wasn't an obstacle, as my Grandfather was a carpenter and made a leaf for it- and then expanded to it's new oblong shape we all fit nicely. It's a smooth piece of wood, with three knots in it. He picked a nice level piece - smoothed and finished it. The ends aren't perfect but it didn't have to be perfect, it just had to fit into the notches the table came with for a leaf. And it does.
My grandmother had a fitted pad made for the table, which would unfold and cover it so that the top was seamless before laying her table cloth.
I don't have a table cloth, or can't find the one I took when I took the table - it might be packed away. So I've got the leaf inserted and the wood exposed across the table. The leaf is a lighter color than the table, although it was stained to be close.
I wipe that leaf off every morning, after a little blonde boy spills his yogurt or drops his honey covered toast on the wood. I think about my Grandfather every morning, about his hands which were disfigured with arthritis - even after surgery - worked so hard even on such a simple project. I think about the warm smell of sawdust in his workshop, and the scent of pipe smoke and cigars. I remember the coffee cans full of nails and drill bits.
His leaf is with me, and all the things I ever knew about him live in it. I tell my oldest son, and someday I'll tell the smaller ones.
History is sometimes found in the strangest places. A trip to Minnesota, a table that all we all have ONE of, a leaf which reminds me of my Grandpa who never knew my sons. The things he did, the things he said, come to life, and he stops just being some random person they never knew. He made this leaf, that we use every day. He made it with his own hands and with love. And he is now immortal because of what he made with his crippled hands.