Thursday, 27 June 2013
I am from a poor people’s kitchen with a large table . . . . . .
What has happened to tables? In particular kitchen tables? What has happened to the idea of sitting around a table for meals, for work, for conversation? A place for families to sit at the end of the day and exchange the day’s news, to air small hurts and share happy moments, at eye level, as equals. The anchor that provides a safe place, a place where body and soul find nourishment.
We had supper at a friend’s house not long ago, six of us sitting around a large kitchen table. There would have been room for at least two more, but as it was, we could spread ourselves and when wine and conviviality loosened our tongues, there was plenty of space for elbows leaning on the table and hands gesturing to make a point. I remember how happy this expansiveness made me feel. I was also aware that there are now very few houses where sitting in such comfort is possible. Many younger people go without tables and eat their food from a plate held on a tray, even in company.
Am I just showing my age again, lamenting the demise of shared meals round a table? In my childhood and my children’s childhood the kitchen was the centre of the house. When I was small we had what was called a live-in-kitchen, a large room with a table and chairs in the middle, a cast iron range to one side and a dresser to the other. Lifestyles have changed and I am not advocating a return to the ‘olden days’, far from it. I am very grateful I no longer have to work as hard as my mother did early in her marriage.
If the kitchen was the centre, the table was the heart of our home. We had our meals at it, father spread his newspaper out on it and I did my homework. Extended family discussions were held here, fists banging the table for emphasis when the talk became heated. The few visitors we had were invited to take a seat, and uncles and aunts had their own regular places. I took my books here, from colouring and picture books to reading books. In the evenings mum and dad and I played cards or board games, and after I had gone to bed they would still be there, finishing off their day. When we moved from the country to the town and the old table had to go because there was no room for it in the new home I missed it terribly.
We have five tables now, too many you might say. If ever we decide to downsize, several will have to go. But three at least have a history and losing them would mean the loss of that history.