The Table is Set

I was discussing this with a friend the other day (yes, I have them. Other people can see them too), and I thought it would make a great topic for a blog, and a bit of a departure from the nonsensical stuff I have posted the past couple of days. So, in honor of my versatility and penchant for being a modern-day Everyman, here we go.

In my house growing up, we had something called a dining room table. Well, more appropriately, we had a kitchen table that we would eat every meal at together as a family. Our kitchen was quite spacious, so the room that was allocated as a dining room when the house was built, became dad’s study/room to store junk/hide from us even though it had no doors to keep us out or prevent us from seeing him. But in the corner of our kitchen, opposite the stove and separated by a half-wall to the dining room/dad’s new study, stood a kitchen table with 6 chairs. For a family of 5, it meant that one of my imaginary friends could join us (although like me, none of them was particularly fond of brussel sprouts back then).

And it was at this table where we would sit around and talk. Sometimes with our mouths full, sometimes not, but we would sit as a family and talk. During the day, no one would be at home so lunch wasn’t really an issue. And on weekends, we’d either all be out or we’d just snack. However, on a Saturday or Sunday morning, sometimes both, mum would prepare something beautiful called a “Full English” breakfast (sadly we couldn’t get the real English thick-cut bacon though). We’d have bacon, eggs, fried tomatoes and fried bread. Baked beans were a necessity. Mum would also do mushrooms as well. Yes, your arteries have just hardened reading that. But deal with it. You could get hit by a meteorite the next time you and your lover are watching the stars in the park at night. I’m just saying.

Both my parents worked. My older sister was involved in horse riding when she was younger (actually still rides horses today), and I was usually at a soccer or ice hockey practice or game. But in those days, I could digest a meal in an hour so I’d normally eat before a game. My little sister did this, that, and the other too. And pretty much every night, we’d have a home cooked meal and sit around the kitchen table. Mum would get from work and set about cooking dinner. We’d pretend to do homework, dad would read the paper, and when mum called us for dinner, we’d go into the kitchen. The television would be on in the living room, and I sat so I could see the most of it. But that wasn’t enough. This was well before the days of 60” flat screens you could see from the neighboring town. And I wasn’t allowed to leave the table until my plate was clean (granted, I did clog the toilet a few times trying to flush food down it I didn’t particularly like). You have no idea how quickly you can clean a plate of food if you want to watch the hockey game! Seconds really. Especially if you like what’s on offer.

And as we got older and moved away, the kitchen table became more of a decorative piece. Until Sunday. On Sunday we’d all show up back at our home away from our own homes and have Sunday dinner and catch up on the activities of the week. It’s just the way it was. But I’m wondering … does anyone still use the kitchen or dining room table on a regular basis?

I live alone and rarely have people over for dinner. I have a dinner table, but most nights I’ll eat at the coffee table while I’m camped on the couch. I say most nights as some nights I just don’t eat or don’t eat at home. I lost a bet during the world cup and had to cook for a friend. We sat at the dinner table. I even put out placemats and everything.

The kitchen table in my house growing up played as big a part on who I became as any education I received, any sports I played, or any other experience that has shaped me. I learned to communicate, I learned to live with my stutter, and I learned who my family really was. We could laugh. We could cry. Mum, didn’t like it when we cursed though. And a normal 30 minute dinner would take us an hour as most nights we were all crying from laughing so much. While I’m happy to sit in front of my tv and have dinner by myself now; I can’t imagine doing that when I was growing up. It just wouldn’t seem right somehow.

8 thoughts on “The Table is Set

  1. I converted my dining table to my office table. But if I go home, we still have to eat in the dining table or at least in the dining room. Food is not allowed outside the dining room – father’s orders.

  2. I like the tradition of eating meals at a dining room table, but I seldom manage it more than once or twice a month. Like KG, my table often serves as a platform for my laptop, or project du jour.

  3. I was quite touched by this post, and came back to read it again. There’s a universality to it, very American, although everything in my house was different … I nonetheless felt myself transported back to when some exiled King was my friend and I knew he was there, and in some ways he was. This story should be submitted to a journal, because it speaks truth. Some of the lines here grabbed me, ” I learned to communicate, I learned to live with my stutter, and I learned who my family really was.” I had speech therapy for six years, and I don’t stutter much … Mrs. Vergeront taught me to simply stop, wait (as if it were all so important) then continue when I could. She also taught me about her version of the word “sissy,” the nickname of the last and beautiful Austrian Empress, and the men who wore her little badge and picture … Empress of Austria-Hungary … became sissies. I never thought it was true, but it was comforting all the same.

    We have much in common. If by chance you’re gay (I forget now), then we are true blue soul mates.

    Best,

    Mark

    • Hi Mark,

      First off, thank you for following this little blog of mine. Secondly, thank you for your extremely kind words about this entry.

      My stutter seldom makes an appearance now but is still there in the background, lurking in the shadows like that one friend we all have whose sole goal is to embarrass you. But not quite as embarrassing.

      As for your final question or query, I am not. Just a guy who should write more than he does and struggling to know what is what.

      Cheers,
      Ger

      • Thanks, Ger … I find that when I’m tired, my stutter returns and I have to speak in slow motion. As Principal of a school I had to give speeches that lasted until 10 or 11 at night, well … my brain ached from the effort to speak slowly, (Mrs. Vergeront in my head) choose a different word, take a drink of water.

        Sorry, but so few people, including my friends really understand what a heck of a burden my doppelganger can be!

        Too bad about not being gay … the good ones often aren’t I dated someone who, after I’d had a tad too much of a refreshing beverage, “What’s the matter with you? Why are you talking like that?” Well, he was handsome … and that was the last date, by the way.

        Best,

        Mark

  4. A vivid post. The large dining table in our house was the scene of the best and worst memories of my family. I’d say the most powerfully charged inanimate object in the whole house.

  5. “But I’m wondering … does anyone still use the kitchen or dining room table on a regular basis?” Yes, yes they do. Not ME of course..I’m ‘oldish’ and widowed and hubby and I never did that even when he was around. But my brother (who has four children ((mostly grown now)) did/does. In fact the kitchen table dinner is dusted off and used every Sunday when they still all gather as a family and nosh. And me (auntie) is often invited. I rather miss the idea of the family sitting down together and eating. No cell phones, no I-thingies, no TV. Maybe some music on a radio turned down low. Getting to actually KNOW the people you’re related to. It’d be beautiful. I think it’s rare.

    • It is extremely rare, and I miss those family dinners too. As it’s just me in my house, the coffee will suffice. But every once and a while it is great to be invited over someplace or have people over and be able to break out the place mats.

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