While our parents drank martinis in the other room, my brother and I ate supper at a round, mahogany pedestal table that must have weighed about a thousand pounds. It had a seam down the middle that would open up to accept table leaves. Underneath the table was a lever — “The Clutch” — that when raised would lock the seam and when lowered would allow the tabletop to slide open.
The clutch was good for many things. Guessing games, for instance. “Up or down?” I'd ask my brother coyly. With rewards like going first or getting the biggest — and punishments like owing quarters or starting Monopoly in jail, I could control his destiny.
When the clutch was in the down position, you could slide the two halves of the table open to insert a leaf. But that’s not all you could insert. There was a neat little cavity in the center that would be totally hidden once the two halves were slid back into place. It was rectangular, perhaps four by six inches. Perfect for unwanted items of food.
Take, for instance, those overcooked hamburgers we couldn’t choke down in our excitement to get out on Halloween nights. “The clutch?” my brother would say, looking mischievously out from under lowered brows. I would nod. Quietly, the clutch would be lowered, the table slid open, and the hamburgers swallowed up.
Gone were sandwich crusts. Asparagus. Pig-flavored chocolate chip cookies from the time our mother insisted bacon fat could be imperceptibly substituted for margarine.… And of course, pea rugs.