I cannot think of a more essential piece of furniture than the kitchen or dining room table. Families would cease to exist if home decor enthusiasts banished this simple furnishing. Perhaps you will agree.
I must say that for most of my child-rearing years, the dining room table was our gathering place. Oh, the furnishing started out as lovely wood and glass inlays, (what was I thinking of when I bought glass ), but soon took on the look of ‘family’. Permanent marker became decoration as did water stains that soon became so familiar, I stopped hiding them with placemats. There were little patches of discolored wood where scotch tape held streamers for countless birthday parties.
This table was strong and noble. It held many folded loads of laundry, waiting for dispersement, and looked like a luggage carrier when all 4-5 book bags were lined up for Monday morning classes. Science fair projects came to life, homework was completed, and report cards discussed at this table. Oh sure, we ate many meals at this ‘port of call’. But our entire lives unfolded around this table.
We had discussions on topics we encountered along life’s journey. When my oldest son survived being run over by a vehicle, I was helping him with grammar homework– at of course, the dining room table–when he blurted out, “Mom, why didn’t I die? People don’t believe it when I tell them I was run over.” Gee, I liked discussing interrogative sentences, but not when the questions were that difficult to answer. But that lone table never failed us. As we questioned, grieved, celebrated, filled out tax forms and grocery lists, wrapped Christmas gifts and served Easter dinners, this simple slab of wood, legs and chairs, served us.
The table always seemed to welcome visitors, travelers, and ordinary folk. But had the Queen or President knocked on my door, I would have led them to this table, because it became a holy place. It held our dreams, disappointments, celebrations, and shortcomings; but more….it kept every conversation private and sacred. How much advice and counseling did my mother give seated across from me at the table? Whether covered in sticky jelly fingerprints or finest linen cloth, that table was such a sentry to our stories. We brought our days to its surface and dealt them out like playing cards. My child’s fate would rest at that table at 3:00a.m., waiting for the doctor to return my call, knowing another trip to the hospital was in the making. When tears splattered on that table, that simple furnishing remained strong and steady. Hmm…maybe it wasn’t a water stain at all…for every family has its time of tears.
You may say that I am over-thinking this whole ‘table’ thing. And you may be right. But I was told of great news while sitting at the table: I was going to be the mother of the groom and then bride; my daughter revealed which college she would be attending; when the grand-babies were due. I ‘ran lines’ with my son so he could be prepared when the curtain opened. And I spread the atlas out on the table and studied it in earnest, when I knew L.A. would be my son’s new residence. I wrote many stories at that table—indeed, I sit here at my round, oak dining room table to type this blog. All my life has revolved around a table…oblong, round, oval—and the stories of this soul have rested on a piece of furniture that the world usually ignores. Funny…most folks rave about a sports car or a boat; I am yammering about something that holds a bowl of cereal or a plate of chicken.
Of course, this table held many crazy moments! Competitive canasta card games, dogs who stole food, the odd boyfriend of my daughter who wanted to have a ‘face to face’ conversation at the table. When he asked me what it was I didn’t like about him, I replied: “How much time do you have?” Sorting out and trading Halloween candy as if we were trading stocks on the NYSE. The brand new/very old ‘knock knock jokes and school stories of the kids that kept us laughing until dessert. Hot chocolate after sledding on the neighboring golf course. The loose tooth that got swallowed with dinner. Looking across the table at the Japanese exchange student, whom we came to love, and who would dazzle us by catching a pesky housefly with chopsticks! And then there was the time I reached over a burning candle, only to catch my sweater on fire. When my son yelled that my sweater was on fire I laughed. He is such a tease! Luckily, my firefighter son-in-law rushed into action and no harm was done. That table was a witness to so much laughter, joy, and memories. See what I mean? It wasn’t just a piece of furniture; it was the furnishing which pieced our lives together.
In books, there is a ‘Table of Contents’ which leads the reader to the various chapters in the text. Well, if life is a book, my ‘table of contents’ is truly a table that sits ready for anything! Kids arguing or teens playing board games; signing divorce papers, paying bills, writing letters or grading papers, sharing coffee with a dear friend—my table has lived it all with me.
And this story has been pushed to the back of this heart and mind for many years. Oh…so many tables, so little time.
But now I will set the table, hopefully, in a whole new light. Forever, I will set a place of honor at the head of the table…which is also the heart of this family. What about you? Do you have a table that owns your soul?
If so, gather now. Your table awaits you.