The Message of the Table17 May 2018 2021-06-16 0:00
The Message of the Table
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. There are memories in the home and on the property and you can imagine it was a big task. After over 30 years, 4 children plus countless family members and friends, how does one capture all of that in moving boxes and containers? Is it possible?
I guess the answer is simple. Our memories are held forever in the recess of our minds, we don’t need stuff to tell us about the life we have lived. But they help, and so it is hard. 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. When we move we are faced with all the things that have accumulated. The stories, the artworks, the tree houses, the boxes of miscellaneous stuff 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. You know, 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 seemed to attach myself to things that trigger the warmth of home. Through the move, I knew I wanted to stay deeply 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. Including the box of stuff my siblings had lovingly prepared for me before I arrived and labelled ‘Susan’s Shit’). In and through all of it there was one thing that stood out. For all I know it was probably found at a garage sale somewhere along the many starts and stops in our life as a family. It was old and had no real value.
I wanted the kitchen table. Some may think it a strange request.
Why would I want the lowly table when I was surrounded by great antiques and gorgeous items? Firstly, for those who don’t know our family well, you need to understand that in our house the kitchen table is the central nervous system of our home. The table is where life was planned, worked out and lived. Our table has seen more action than just meals to enjoy. There were many hours of conversation, whether it was the early morning coffee with neighbours who dropped in or warm winter breakfasts. I remember my dad’s 12 pm lunch or the countless dinners that have been shared, or maybe the late night heart-to-hearts. Our kitchen table always played host to much laughter, some tears, always great food, many jokes and so much more. Hopefully so has yours.
Over the years I have learned that a kitchen table isn’t simply wood, varnish and nails. Rather it is like a giant memory box. The kitchen table is the gathering spot where life is shared, where dreams are realized and where vision is cast. Where laughter can be heard. Something I find particularly sad is in new home development, where many homes are being designed without space for a kitchen table. Certainly not a trend that I will ever adopt because through lived experience I have come to understand the power of the table.
There is something significant about a kitchen or dining table.
As I look through history, I see that through feasting and dining, cultures come together. There is strength in breaking bread together as families and as communities. I think about The Last Supper, by Leonardo Da Vinci. It shows. Jesus and his disciples gathered at a table. I love this painting, but I am challenged by its lack of fullness. By that I mean where are the women and children?
History records tells us that the Passover meal is always intended to be shared by all members of the family. This often included travellers, and guests whose families were too small or too poor to buy the meal for themselves. The laws of Passover require children to ask questions so that they can learn the meaning of the Passover meal from their parents. So with that in mind, my personal belief is that there is more to the table.
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, and adorned the walls of the greatest museums. The Last Supper and the table that is used can be found in advertising campaigns, most airports and bookstores.
Why has this message of the table travelled far and wide? Why does it never date and why does it always resonate and cross so many lines? By choosing 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. A place where we can talk about the hard things that are thrown our way. It is a place where we can relax. Where we can enjoy each other’s company, and 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 by sitting together. I have seen broken hearts mended and so much more, simply by gathering at the table and sharing a meal. We are able to work our way back to what really matters in life. Something else that adds to this story is how we are created. Our system requires us to stop and fuel our bodies through food and water more than once a day. We are uniquely designed to stop, sit and replenish. A stunning and very organic opportunities for us to come together. As families, we can use this as a critical part of our family schedules.
If you haven’t enjoyed a meal together at the family table for a while – maybe it’s time. Dust the table off, move the bills, paperwork and laundry pile to another place and let everyone in your home know that dinner is on at 6 pm. Prepare a family favourite and without a doubt you will be amazed. Your children will gather, teenagers will come out of their rooms and gravitate to the aroma in the home.
See your family gather.
If you find yourself alone and without family. 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. Perhaps take it a step further and invite someone over and share at your table.
As many of you know I have lived away from family for most of my adult life. This being the case, there is one thing I know for sure. I love when I call home to my mother’s house and there is a family dinner happening. From the other end of the phone I get passed around from person to person so we can all say hello.
I know exactly where my two brothers will be sitting. (They always sit in the same chair on the same side of the table and have done my entire life.) My beautiful mother will be at the head of the table, my late father’s chair will be occupied by a well deserving grandchild and all of this warms my soul. The simplicity of this insignificant act of gathering around a table 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 travelled with me across the ocean and held many places in our home. In the picture on the right it is nestled neatly in my kitchen with three jars on it. Faith | Love | Hope.
Currently, it serves as my desk in my office. I know that 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. Be sure to remember to cook a little extra just in case someone turns up to visit at dinner time.
With much love and respect,