When we were first married in a tiny apartment in Tempe, AZ we did not have space for a kitchen table. We also knew we would be moving to New York in three short months and had heard kitchens there were even smaller. We ate dinner in our laps for years and rarely had dinner guests for that reason.
Several years later when we lived in Windsor Terrace, a quaint little space of Brooklyn, we finally got some elbow room in our kitchen and got ourselves a cute little kitchen table. It was sort of like those tricky notes you fold up all crazy in high school. It would be a small square table for two, OR!, if you turned it just right sideways and lifted up the top layer it would fold out into a rectangle; now an uncomfotable seat for FOUR! It made it feel more like home to have a place to sit and invite at least one couple for dinner. But we still mostly ate dinner on our laps in the livingroom watching television. But more often than that, went out to eat. At that point our kitchen table might have seen more of the kind of baby making action than eating food off plates action. Such sorts of activities in general lead to this:
Then we moved to Westchester with this kitchen table and it was still pretty lonely during meal times. Our child was in a high chair for meals and I would wait to eat dinner with Mike when he got home from school after 10pm. The table was an object, not an integral part of our family routine or lifestyle. It filled a corner. Just sort of took up space.
Then we moved to California and suddenly we booted the high chair and became a family eating dinner (or pumpkins) together at this table. That little kitchen with the immediate view of our lemon bush made it a happy place to hang out. Zane learned to paint, eat/ smoosh play doh, and color at this table. He has his first friends for lunch time giggles over chopped up hot dogs at this table. Used a big boy cup at this table. Spilled, scratched, bumped into, and eventually broke this table. It was in this space I realized the kitchen table was one of the few places we would gather as a family without distraction. No t.v., phone, or internet would distract us from each other. I decided it would be important to make sure it would always be a place we all associate positive feelings with by avoiding contention at all costs. We would not force food, we would not argue, and we would not shout or scold at our family table. There are still rules, but they are enforced peacefully and with natural consequences and gentle reminders. We aren't always perfect at following these guidelines, but it's what we strive for.
Then the table broke. One half snapped off the hinges.
After consulting with Craig's List and preparing for a hopeful move to Arizona in coming months we picked a cheap one that did not match our chairs by style or color. It was intended to be more temporary than it has been, but has served us well. Mike collected the table from a middle aged women who appeared to be selling many of her necessary household goods to make ends meet. It made me wish she had priced it above the meager $50. That detail about its history made me feel more humility about scrubbing the old crumbs between the leaf crevices and more forgiving of the crack in the middle of the table that always leaves a gap wide enough for two quarters to slip down side-by-side with or without the leaf in it.
This table welcomed a new family member where Evan had his first bites of baby food. It was part of the obligatory photographs of those face conortions made when one eats pureed carrots for the first time. It was the surface his tiny baby hands rested on as I bibbed him up for the grand transition into the new era of Messy Eating Time.
It survived the move to this desert and has more recently been explored by a preschooler obsessed with transformers as he explores the ways in which the leaves fold and tuck and bend. Old time (and new) friends and family have gathered around this table and I have often noticed how out of place it sits in our home asthetically. As the lingering chairs of that long ago Ikea trip have held stready for our family, their days have finally been numbered. Two of our remaining four chairs broke. And now, my friends, it is time for the grown-up real life kitchen table set purchase.
As we ponder the style we like and what we feel might fit best in our kitchen space, we have come to realize much life circles around this one piece of furniture. It will be used more frequently and listen to more important conversations and laughter than pretty much any other piece of furniture in our home. As the years go on more of my children will learn new things in different phases of their lives at this spot. I have plenty of homework years to guide my kids through at this sacred slab of wood in addition to many family prayers that will offer thanks from each of our hearts that we get to have food and each other.
This next table, it will be important to us. It will need to look right, but most importantly be the kind of table I allow us to live and play at and spill things on and most likely scratch and wear down. I have to remember the memories around this rectangle will be more important than keeping it in perfect shape. Us wearing it out and making it part of our family is what will make it ours and our house a home.