I cannot remember a time in my life that the forty-four-inch round, solid oak table was not present in my family. When I was a toddler, my mother purchased it at an unfinished furniture store. She spent weeks sanding, staining and finishing what would be a piece of furniture to last for generations. She purchased five ladder back chairs to put around the table not knowing at the time that her prize piece of furniture would serve the family long after she was gone from this earth. The oak table sat in her kitchen for fifty-four years and welcomed anyone who stepped through the door a place to sit, drink a cup of coffee and converse about hometown gossip, recipes, the weather and their children among many other topics of that day. There were many games of dominos and cards played on the surface as well. The table was a gathering place for recreation, rest, vulnerability and connection.
Forty-four inches is a small area for a family of five. However, it was in this tight circle where, as children we learned to say grace, listen to each other laugh, cry, and practice our best manners. Our family gathered around every evening, sitting in the tall back chairs that held each of our places just as a page marker in a book, to partake of a hot meal together and review the day’s events. For eighteen years, I had my designated place where I felt complete acceptance by the other four people seated around me. It didn’t matter what happened during the course of the day, I knew and felt the unconditional love as we sat elbow to elbow, knee to knee each evening. The kitchen table was a place of encouragement, learning, and the building of dreams year after year. It was steady. It was certain. It was a safe place.
The table has never been refinished. The edges are worn smooth where arms of the past, weak and strong once rested. The pedestal legs are a bit crooked from being kicked but are still sturdy, never wavering. There are rings embedded from hot cups without saucers and deep scratches caused by toys being drug across the top. Eyes cannot see but, there are also lots of tear stains soaked deeply into the surface as well, tears of sorrow and tears of joy. Each of the stains, scars, and tears serve as a reminder of past generations, stories told of heartache and triumph, lessons learned, and love shared. May the circle be unbroken.