I believe in eating at the kitchen table.
Growing up I can’t remember when I ate a meal at any place other than the kitchen table.
My parents, sister and I dined at a modest, circular oak table that my mother inherited from her great aunt Ethel.
At Ethel’s kitchen table, my sister and I ate waffles smothered in peanut butter and maple syrup, which sometimes dribbled onto our plaid Catholic school jumpers, while we finished our homework on dark mornings.
At the family table, I saw my father, a busy businessman, when he savored my mother’s weekend lunches of tomato sandwiches on white bread with mayonnaise and Lawry’s salt.
At that table, we celebrated birthdays, straight A’s, promotions and college acceptances over special dinners.
The table was a place where we discussed our days. Dad talked about work or grandma’s health. I talked about horseback riding lessons or the yearbook staff. Suzy talked about softball. Mom often just listened and sometimes threw her head back into loud laughter, indicating something one of us said was truly funny.
Other times, the table was a place to be despised, representing an unwillingness to bend. Come on, can’t we just order pizza and eat it while we watch a movie? Forget it, this family never owned a t.v. tray.
After my father showed the first signs of heart problems, the table was the place for complaints about the new family diet.
“Chicken and fish. Chicken and fish. All we ever eat is chicken and fish,” we sang.
After the first heart attack struck, Suzy and I ate dinner there alone. Mom was at the hospital late, and we tried to make dinner for her, but she was never hungry.
On a few occasions, like when I used the F word, we ate silent dinners while trying to avoid each other’s gaze.
Once, Suzy and I got out of Sunday mass because of a fight at that table. She splashed milk on my dress, so I dumped the whole bowl of Cheerios on her head. She, in turn, did the same to me.
At the kitchen table, everything we ate off of could be thrown into the dishwasher. We didn’t worry about water stains from glasses and used paper napkins.
Today, we even have the same seating arrangements: me across from my mother with my dad to my left and sister to the right.
I now realize that eating at the table wasn’t about dining in a civilzed manner. It was about maintining relationships, which really shoud be the ultimate belief: relationships with family, friends and one’s self.
Though I live alone in my own home now, I still eat every meal at my kitchen table. My friends refuse to eat at their kitchen tables and prefer to prop plates of food on their laps at dinner parties.
Yet when they come to my house, we always eat at my sleek black table.
Mine’s not Ethel’s. I believe it’s better. My parents bought it for me.
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