I believe in the kitchen table and the family dinner. I believe that battles are won and lost at those scared places where families sit and come together. When I was a child, as like most families, we ate dinner around the table almost every night. Unnoticeable to the eye, it was broken on one side because of our 30lb cat that jumped on it in fear of our dog Gracie. The other end had one night’s algebra homework vividly written into the soft cypress pine. My sister decided that night that her paper just wasn’t suitable for exponents and dug her pencil straight into the wood, and even though my sister is now twenty-seven, our mother still fusses about the indentions and the disrespect placed on “such a fine piece of furniture.”
The kitchen table is not just a place to eat, it is a conference table where family meetings are held, elders share their wisdom and famous “walking up hill both ways in the snow” stories, siblings fight and laugh, and time is spent with those who mean the most. I believe that a lot is taught around the kitchen table and that meals shared around it shape one’s soul. I have been praised and scolded, laughed and cried, gotten hurt and felt loved in so many ways so many times around our kitchen table. We are a loud God fearing Southern family who centers every activity on a good meal.
The kitchen table of my childhood sat six comfortably but most of the time we had at least twelve heads scrunched in. It was long and oval with my father sitting at the head opposite the door and myself, the baby of the family, directly at the other end. My mother is a Southern culinary master; every meal she prepares is guaranteed to raise your blood pressure and probably cholesterol too. My mother’s food is her pride and joy. She shows her love through her food, nightly cooking for an army and welcoming any family member who wants to stop in. I believe in the sanctity of those meals, they gave me a sense of self and belonging growing up. It really grounded me through the critical years when I thought I knew it all and had everyone figured out. I have worked through most of the hurdles I have faced in my life talking with my parents all sitting in our respective seats. I remember crying my sophomore year of college because I was so miserable with school, my major, my roommates, and my overall surroundings. My parents sat with me diligently until we had come to a conclusion. They really never gave me any profound advice that night, just sat with me over pie and coffee as I cried for my trivial burdens that seemed so great in the moment.
Around the table everyone is on the same even playing field. Every voice is heard equally and every opinion counted no matter if you are six or sixty. My five-year-old cousin recently proclaimed post-election that he was one day going to become President of the United States after he became a garbage man, of course. We all listened to his reasons why as he was so passionate about his future. It is really sweet hearing the voice of a child who believes whole heartedly in their dreams.
I believe in traditions and in our family, the kitchen table is at the core of most. I believe America needs to remember the importance of the kitchen table and consciously, no matter how busy, make time with their family around it. I believe and I know that the kitchen table can instill values; respect, admiration, and reverence into our youth. Character traits we can instill through simple time around a table with family members listening to one another. The world is not rosy and not everyone has time to prepare a meal nightly due to time or financial constraints but if that time is made if only once a week the benefits so greatly outweigh the costs. In our family when times were tough that’s when we came together the most.
I believe in the family unit. When a family unit is strong, the members are individually twice as strong. I believe that the family unit is greatly strengthened around the dinner table where so is much taught. I hope that parents, grandparents, foster parents, and other caregivers realize the need for the core of the kitchen to be put back as a priority in family life. I believe that time spent around an oblong broken piece of wooden furniture tremendously enhanced who I am today.