Monday, March 3, 2008

The Country Kitchen Table

I have a magic kitchen table.

When we bought it five years ago, I thought it was fairly ordinary. It is solid wood with a plain finish. It has few ornamental details. I selected it because it could expand to accommodate a crowd. I was unaware of its amazing powers.

Yesterday, for example, I returned to the kitchen after folding a load of laundry and looked in dismay at my kitchen table. In the 15 minutes since I had last cleared it off, it had accumulated enough items that I could barely see its surface.

You see, my kitchen table has the extraordinary ability to generate stuff. When I clear it off and leave the room, it can produce a mess in just minutes. Right now its contents include a half-eaten bowl of oatmeal, a spoon, the chicken scrap bucket (dirty), a pair of shoes, a plastic pony, three matchbox cars, a sock, three books, a telephone, a coffee cup (dirty), and a newspaper. This list would be rather unremarkable but for the fact that I cleared it off only 15 minutes ago.

After a few years of contemplation, I have come to the conclusion that its magic powers lie in its most obvious characteristic: its flatness. Any flat surface in my house tends to reach out and grab things from out of people’s hands.

The kitchen table is more than just a dumping grounds for stuff, though. It is arguably the most important piece of furniture in a country home.

The kitchen table is the gathering place for neighbors who discuss markets and cattle over cups of coffee. It is where we convince the banker to give it one more year here in next year country. The kitchen table is where we sign our life insurance policies and negotiate calf prices with the cattle buyer.

In the evening, the kitchen table is where the kids gather, almost instinctively, to do their homework and converse with Mom while she is making supper. It is where the multiplication tables are learned, science experiments are constructed, bears are counted and sorted by color, and book reports are composed.

On Saturdays, the kitchen table becomes another type of classroom. The lessons of the kitchen are passed from one generation to the next as noodles are dried, bread dough is kneaded, and biscuits are rolled out. This is where my kids decorate the Christmas sugar cookies, putting on too many sprinkles and breaking off the tips of the stars “accidentally” so they can sample their work.

The kitchen table is the most photographed furniture in the house. I have pictures of my kitchen table surrounded by grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. They are singing “Happy Birthday” and watching children blowing out candles on cakes decorated on the kitchen table late at night. They are eating Thanksgiving dinner or tentatively sampling the kids’ birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Day. These photographs of people around the kitchen table chronicle the passage of time, the growth of children, and the aging of our elders.

The kitchen table is where my children learn to give thanks to their Father for his blessings. It is where they hear their daddy pray for rain. It is the only time that my oldest child will hold the hand of his younger sister as his daddy asks God’s blessing on the meal before him.

The kitchen table is where the kids hear their mom bring up touchy subjects because she knows it is hard to argue when your mouth is full of pot roast.

This is the place where we answer questions like, “What is war?” and “Why were those people in the Bible naked?”

So, you see, my kitchen table is magic not just in its ability to accumulate stuff, but in its ability to gather together the people who mean the most to me and for the opportunity to teach, to learn, and to live.



Frazzled Farm Wife said...

What an awesome post! Your kitchen table sounds like a wonderful place to be. They should make a commercial out of it!!

Jen said...

Erin I think we're fortunate to have our kitchen tables be a gathering place. I'm afraid there are to many vacant tables because people think they don't have time to sit down with their family anymore.

Right now EVERY flat surface in my house has something accumulated on it, mainly to keep it out of reach of the 2 yo BUT she has gotten smart and is constructing very elaborate "stools" to reach what she shouldn't have in the first place. The scissor is the most recent item of interest as anyone can tell by her hair in the front!

Colleen said...

Hmmmm ... picturing you hovering on a chandelier (but I know you don't have one), or teetering on the top of a tall ladder in order to capture that shot of your table. A very clean table, I might add. But, HOW did you get that shot?(Camera dangling from a fishing pole?!)

Bush Babe (of Granite Glen) said...

Excellent post - I totally agree... my table belonged to my Dad's mother also, and although it doesn't expand like yours, it too has a magnetic quality I could occasionally do without. But it has seen all our ups and downs (and the generations preceding it)... I shall look at it in a whole different light after reading this today! And yes... how did you get that pic??

corner kitchen table said...

Your kitchen table looks wonderful!

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