My mom and I eat in front of the television set in her little sitting room. She sits in her soft recliner in front of a tray table. I balance it all on my lap.
The kitchen table is littered with boxes of her favorite cookies, her can of fake coffee, glasses half-filled with water, a water jug (we have a really stinky well), her container of pills for the day, a sugar bowl, salt and pepper shakers, and other assorted objects, including a pair of my reading glasses.
For the more than a quarter of a century during which I lived alone before this, I rarely sat and ate at my table unless I was reading while I was eating. I don’t think we are very different from many people these days. For the most part, we’ve tabled the table.
Oh there are exceptions, even for me. I have a chance to sit with a family and have dinner when I’m visiting my daughter. We even have conversations — this is when we can get a word in among the energetic chatter of my 5 year old grandson.
And one of my greatest pleasures these days is getting together around a table with my women friends, which I can’t do very often because they live too far away. But when we meet, it’s always around a table where we spend hours eating and laughing, talking politics and movies, and men.
And so when the following poem from Jim Culleny appeared in my in-box, I couldn’t help but be moved by it.
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
Soon enough, I will have time again at the table.