Can a kitchen table tell a story?
It is, after all, just a table; an inanimate object that takes up a lot of space. Let’s face it, it’s something else around the house, like your kids and your bathroom sink, that needs to be cleaned, scoured, disinfected and wiped down on a regular basis.
It can’t talk, dispense advice or pay the bills. It . . . well, it just sits there.
My kitchen table happens to be sixty inches round on a pedestal base. Since there are no corners, this means we can all sit together as close as humanly possible to one another and still be able to breathe . . . sort of.
Sometimes, this is a bad thing. It’s hard to drink your first cup of coffee before it gets cold with a seven year old leaning all over you, demanding to know the capital of Egypt while your eyes haven’t even fully adjusted to the sunlight yet.
Sometimes, this is a good thing. It’s easier to hug them over a pile of text books if they’ve had a bad day at school since you’re close enough to wipe their tears from their cheeks and tell them, even if they don’t know it yet, everything will be okay.
My kitchen table is ten years old and was bought because it had lots of growing room. When it first came home, it had a high chair pulled up next to it and booster seats bumped up under its edges. The legs of the children who sit under it now are considerably longer and ganglier, and no matter how many times I ask them to stop, keep kicking its pineapple shaped base over and over again with the toes of their shoes.
My kitchen table is made out of solid oak. It’s sturdy and safe; practically indestructible. It holds things up; the things we use everyday like laptops, books, papers and pencils, food and drink. Sometimes, it even holds up things I’d rather it not, like cats, dogs, and pet caterpillars, smelly sneakers and chewed up gum.
Over time, it’s weathered a bit. Alright, to be fair, it’s weathered a lot. There’s a big water stain in the middle from a science experiment gone awry. But at least now, my youngest knows how water condenses. There are a few burns on its side from a hot glue gun. But the Giant Squid made out of a 2-liter 7Up bottle and Saran Wrap actually made it to school on time.
Its surface is peppered with permanent ink stains, paint chips, glitter, glue, sticker remnants and pencil marks. It looks like one of those Rorschach tests I studied about in a Psychology course at Georgia. A Rorschach is really nothing but ink stains on a piece of paper. Its purpose is to not look like anything. It’s the interpretation of what the viewer thinks they see that tells the most about that person.
If someone looked at my table, I doubt they’d see anything particularly interesting, maybe a cluster of glitter clumps and paint stains in the shape of a Beyonce or of Ronald Reagan’s head. Whose knows? But when I look at my table, the picture I see is crystal clear. I see the ten-year span of a growing family.
It’s where my baby held herself up to learn how to walk, where my oldest lost her first tooth. It’s the place both of my girls learned to spell their own names; it’s where they both learned to read, write and talk back. Sure, it’s seen its fair share of drama, fights and tears. But it’s also seen a whole lot more.
If a home is where the heart is, and the kitchen is the heart of the home, then the kitchen table is its pulsating center; the place where the heart beats the loudest and keeps everything strong.
The other night my husband sat down to dinner and started trying to dig up a glob of glue with a paper clip while he waited. I was about to tell him to stop, to leave it the way it is, but one of my girls beat me to it.
“Forget it Dad,” she tells him from across the table. “The table is as old as I am. There’s nothing you can do to it to make any better.”
She’s right. It’s perfect the way it is.
I’m glad we all love it this way. When I look at all of its scratches, divots and dents, I don’t see flaws or defects, stains or spots. I don’t even see a slab of 60 inch round wood on a pedestal base either. When I look at my kitchen table, I see a story. I see the story of us . . . of a family, imperfections and all, growing more resilient, like our oak table, every day.
What story does your kitchen table tell you? I’m betting, like mine, it’s a pretty darn good one.
Laura Packard recently moved to Beaufort from Saint Simons Island, GA where she still pens a humor column for Coastal Illustrated/Brunswick News. She has brought along her 2 daughters, 3 dogs, 4 cats and one husband. They sometimes let her write. You can learn more about Laura and her writing at www.lauraleighpackard.com. And don’t forget, if you can’t make fun of yourself, someone else will surely do it for you. For Laura, someone else is usually her kids… and her dog, Atlas who she swears is John Candy reincarnate, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.