Sunday, September 2, 2007

Ode To The Kitchen Table

Because of new school schedules and rehearsal schedules, it seems that we have not eaten a real meal (i.e. a meal that involves a full place setting of silverware and must be eaten from a plate rather than a paper towel) at home all week. Tonight, the pattern was broken. We had chicken and corn on the cob, both grilled. As we got ready to put the meal on the table, it became obvious to me that we had a little problem. The table was covered with s. . . .stuff. Except for a cookbook and a dirty glass, none of it had anything to do with food or eating. As I began to clear things, I was amazed at the things I removed:
  • the new Mac Powerbook belonging to the kid about to leave for school
  • a stack of miscellaneous papers from the University of Chicago that are touting the university life
  • a French dictionary
  • a ball or two of yarn
  • knitting needles, which have nothing to do with the yarn on the table
  • a stack of mail needing attention
  • magazines ranging from Back Home to Yoga Journal
  • a couple of books ranging from a CSI novel to What The Best College Teachers Do
  • a few writing implements that may or may not actually write
  • a cat

We have a 7 foot pine table that was made by Erin's fifth grade teacher's husband; so, there is plenty of room for all of this stuff. For me, the question of how do all of these things fit on the table is not nearly as intriguing as why the heck is all of this stuff here in the first place. We have a huge house - a house in which every one of us has our own space and there is a place, other than the kitchen table, for everything.

The reality is that the table is the center of our family life together. It sits between the kitchen and the family room - i.e. in close proximity to both food and television, the basic staples of any teenager's life. So, this is where we congregate to talk, to play, to watch TV, to do homework and grade papers, and to eat a home cooked meal, though not so much lately. I realized that in the things on the table, there is a piece of every one of us. The table is a monument to all that goes on here. Though the dogs did not have a contribution ON the table, they did have quite a collection of polyfil from gutted toys and plastic pieces from a chewed Frisbee under the table. We all had fair representation. As I continued to move things, I was reminded of a conversation I had with Erin when she about six.

For some reason we were talking about inherited things. Brooke said that all we had was a couple of looms, a spinning wheel, a bunch of yarn, and way too many books. She said she had no interest in the fiber related things (which has since changed) and she would have already read all the books she wanted to read before inheriting them would be an issue so there was nothing that she really wanted. Erin announced that she wanted the kitchen table. (She was not speaking of the table we have now.) When I asked her why she wanted the kitchen table, she told me it was because it was full of stories and memories. She started pointing to the drip of fingernail polish from Christmas Eve, the streak of marker from where she colored a birthday card for a friend, the glitter from various art projects, the globs of hot melt glue from making Halloween costumes, the dings from pounding play-doh with a real hammer.

Tonight, as I look at our table with its mound of "stories and memories", I am thankful for all that our kitchen table represents. Though it would be nice not to have to engage in an archaeological dig every time we sit down for a meal, as long as the table continues to be our favorite gathering spot, I suspect the nightly digs will continue. As long as this is so, stories and memories will continue to be made. And that is what family life is all about.