Ever notice how when people gather in a home, they tend to end up around the kitchen or dining room table? Of course you have – and I am by far not the first person to mention it. Nor can I offer any unique insight about the reasons why this is so. You know the theories – that’s where the food is, for starters. There is bound to be activity in the kitchen. If you don’t know anyone at a party, you can head for the kitchen and most likely find the host whom you most likely know. People are drawn to the smells and sounds of a kitchen in motion. The kitchen is traditionally the center of the home. Maybe that isn’t as true today as it once was. Maybe it still is.
But in either case, I propose that it’s a concept worth fighting to keep.
In our home, the kitchen and dining room are separated only by a half-wall. The family room is right there, too, just beyond a wide archway. Essentially, it’s all the same space. I love it. These three rooms in one are the center of our daily life. We spend the most time here. We receive guests here. We live here. The table is situated in the middle of the space and well it should be. This is where we prepare and share meals. This is where we play games and do our homework and pray and talk about serious (and not so serious) matters. Everything happens here. Some days it is spotless and decorated in a seasonally-appropriate manner. On other days, it is a chaotic mess of papers, toys, books, art projects and Rotten Cats. It is just like our actual life.
And the table is beginning to show the signs of this living. There are a few colorful marks that are the remnants of art projects, home manicures, and Easter egg dying sessions. There are grooves and scratches in the chairs from keys in pockets and buttons attached to people’s pants when they sat there. There are countless marks from pens and pencils worn through paper that are bits of letters, drawings, grocery lists, and bill paying. The finish is worn in a spot or two and there is one spot that is currently the subject of controversy because we aren’t really sure whether it’s something stuck there or something worn through. We have clever tools for removing these various blemishes. (Goo Gone and Mr. Clean Magic Erasers work wonders.) When one of us gets upset about the current blemish, I remind Him – and myself – that we bought this butcher block workhorse because we wanted it to be able to stand up to the test of time and still look cool while doing so.
So sometimes I don’t quite get around to using the Goo or the Mr. Clean. Somehow I feel like removing these marks is removing signs of life. And since our life is lived around this table, the table has become – in a very short span of time – a record of this life. My grandparents had such a table. It was glorious. It had some burn marks and some deep gashes and countless traces of pen-through-paper math problems, love letters, tic-tac-toe games and the names of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren carefully etched in first grade printing. Every one of those burns and gashes and pen marks was part of a story. It was the story of a couple…of a family…of a life lived well.
My grandparents are gone now…and I think so is the table, unless one of the aunts has adopted it. But the stories it told and the memories of family and friends and love it held still remain carved forever on the tabletops of our hearts. These are the stories we tell again and again around our table and the tables in all of the relatives’ homes.
Our table and our story are much smaller right now than theirs was…but that table serves as the model by which we have come to live the way we do here around our own table.
Our table is so much more than a table.
It is our center. It is our story. It is our life.