I’m in my favorite writing place. The table across the way is just like one from my childhood.
Ours sat centered in the dining area of a ranch home already too small for a family of seven. A long narrow bench, not well made, but serviceable sits tight to the painted yellow wall. Perched three in row, are the little bottoms of my two sisters, wearing matching summer dresses made by my mother and one round faced boy with a mischievous grin and big brown eyes. Twenty years later he is granted the joy of creating a a copy carbon copy of himself.
At the head of the table, my father, a small man with a quick temper but a soft heart. His adherence to the Sunday mass schedule and the routine blaring a Saturday morning radio show featuring the roots of country greats like Hank Williams, Cash, Willie drive his children into fits of irritation while we work our Saturday chore list. The rest of the week he labors in a nursing home, wheeling and chatting and lifting and cleaning and carrying the people of those rooms to bathrooms and up and down hallways and into lunch areas where they are sometimes spoon fed. He is very clear it is best to never be the recipient of care taking from paid strangers in those kinds of places.
I hold the opposite end of my mother’s table. As the first born it is not a seat of honor so much as the seat of assistance. My baby sister sits to my right in her high chair. From this spot I get up and down quickly to retrieve more milk, the forgotten jam, to quickly pull the towel for a spill. On the wall to my left hangs an inexpensive brown plastic plaque, the Serenity prayer etched across the front, something I read many times, over and over, just for something to do while waiting for a stack of corn to be placed in the center of the table or the bowl of buttered beans passed to me from the left.
Dinner was lunch. Supper was dinner. Dessert was bread with jam unless it was someone’s birthday.
The table of my childhood is not a place of peace. Someone always has to ask to be excused to use the bathroom right in the middle of the meal. This bothers my mother to no end- I do not know why. The dinner table seats six children and two parents over the years. Dinner is often interrupted by the noon whistle that sounds from the center of town every day of the week and when we are playing outside or riding bike with friends the 5 o’clock church bells ring out to tell us to go home and park ourselves at the supper table.
The table rules. Elbows off the table. Don’t talk with food in your mouth. Pass the pepper with the salt. And don’t touch that fork until after we pray, “Bless us, Oh Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from thy goodness, through Christ our Lord, Amen.” Around this slab of pine, hasty signs of the cross are made and the comfort of chaos erupts, the learning of life lessons are solid and set.
Pass down your traditions. Make your opinions known. Respect your elders. Yes, by all means, talk politics at the table.
#for Reticent Mental Property . Image courtesy of the web. 3rd post of Daily Prompt August 5, 2016. Pardon the lack of editing; my work day calls.