A number of years ago my parents made the big decision to move from our farm and family home into our small, very quaint town. As many of you know, a move like this is huge. With well over 30 years, 4 children plus countless family members and friends who have created memories in the home and on the property, it was a big task. How does one capture all of that in moving boxes and containers? Is it possible? I guess the answer is simple. It is captured and held forever in the recess of our minds, our memories that will last a lifetime. Many of you reading this know what I’m talking about, you’ve gone down this road before. Whether it has been with your parents, in-laws, friends or perhaps yourselves. Moving and the things that have accumulated, the stories, the artworks, the tree houses, the boxes of miscellaneous things in the attic … the list goes on.
In prep for their big move, and in an effort to make things a little easier, my siblings and I all came home to start the process. The plan was for us to go through the house and take the things that we wanted, the things that we had asked for or had our eye on over the years. This was definitely not the easiest task because, again, where do you begin? What do you take to remind you of this glorious place that you have called home for so many years? For me, it was an emotional journey. I seem to attach myself to things that trigger the warmth of home and in this moment, I knew I wanted to stay connected to this place, this house that had seen me grow from a four-year-old, pig-tailed little girl into a thirty-something woman (yes, the move was a few years ago!). There were many things I decided I would like, however there was one thing that stuck in my mind and finally I decided to ask my parents if I could have it. What I had set my heart on and what I had wanted was the kitchen table.
Some may think it a strange request. Why, when I was surrounded by great antiques and gorgeous items, would I want the table? Firstly, for those who don’t know our family well, you must understand that in our house (like many of yours I’m sure) the kitchen table was always the centre of our lives. I liken it to the central nervous system in the body, it was where life was planned, worked out and lived. Our table has seen more action than just meals to enjoy, there were so many hours of conversation; whether it was the early morning coffee with neighbours who dropped in, warm winter breakfasts, my dad’s 12pm lunch or the countless dinners that have been shared or maybe the late night heart-to-hearts. Whatever the case may be, our kitchen table always played host to much laughter, some tears, always great food, many jokes and so much more.
Over the years I have learned that a kitchen table isn’t simply wood and varnish, rather it is like a giant memory box. The kitchen table is the gathering spot where life is shared, where dreams are realized, where vision is cast and where laughter can be heard. Sadly, many new homes are being built with no kitchen and no space for a kitchen table, this trend is one that I will never adopt because I understand the power of the table. Technology is another threat to the table. Families are coming together less and less and even if they do gather, technology comes along too. A definite travesty of our time.
There is something significant about a kitchen or dining table. As I look through history, I see that in feasting and dining, cultures come together. There is strength in breaking bread together as families and as communities. I think about the beautiful picture of Jesus and his disciples gathered at a table for what we know to be the last supper. I’m fascinated that a table was chosen as the location to speak this lasting message of hope. Jesus could have chosen anywhere for this significant act to occur yet he chose the table to share such an important poignant moment. A moment that has travelled through the chronicles of time, crossed cultures and belief systems, a picture that has adorned the walls of the greatest museums. This scene is used in advertising campaigns, a print can be found in most airports and book stores, it is used in so many ways. Why has this message of the table travelled far and wide and why does it never date and why does it always resonate and cross so many lines? Through this one act, this choice to use the table, I am compelled to believe that there is a message to all. Tables are sacred places. They are a place where we can come together, where we can talk about the hard things that are thrown our way, it is a place where we can relax and enjoy each other’s company, a place to communicate (which by the way comes from the word commune), the table is a safe place to gather, replenish and simply be together.
With this in mind, I encourage you to use your dining table to its full potential. Through my work and travels, I have seen countless families come together, broken hearts mended and so much more, simply through sitting at the table together. By sharing a meal and getting back to what really matters. Something else that adds to this story is how we are created to stop and fuel our bodies through food more than once a day, we are designed to stop, sit and replenish so why not start making this a critical part of our family schedules.
If you haven’t enjoyed a meal together at the family table for a while dust off the table, let everyone know that dinner is on at 6pm, prepare a family favourite and allow yourself to be amazed as children gather, teenagers come out of their rooms gravitating to the aroma in the home. See your family gather. I promise you, that you will be amazed. If you find yourself alone and without family then I encourage you to extend yourself and invite someone to your table. If gathering at the table is something you do regularly then please keep it up and why not invite someone over and share at your table.
As many of you know I live away from family and have done so for many years now. This being the case, there is one thing I know for sure, if I call at dinner time I know I will always get an answer and if it’s a party or special occasion, and everyone is home, the phone will be passed around. As that happens, I will know exactly where everyone will be sitting. Being able to do this warms my soul and the simplicity of this one thing allows me the feeling that everything will be well with the world.
I am happy to report that my parents gave me the old kitchen table (pictured above). It still holds the chip that I etched out one warm summer day in 1978. It has now travelled with me across the ocean and is nestled neatly in my kitchen with three jars on it that say Faith | Love | Hope. I know that as the years continue and as life changes I will hear the voices of my family and friends simply by sitting at that table and allowing the richness and memories to flood my mind. Use your tables friends, and always remember to cook a little extra just in case someone turns up to visit at dinner time.