The White House has the Oval Office and the Situation Room.
We had The Kitchen Table.
We worked there. Sold grain and livestock; bought insurance; planned crop rotations and seed orders. It served as the accountant’s office; the corporate Boardroom; study hall; the canning kitchen; bakery; pasta shop.
In the summer we shelled peas, snapped green beans, cut corn off the cob, hulled strawberries, peeled and sliced peaches. Canning days started with empty mason jars lined up and waiting to be filled; when they ended the table was laden with jewel-toned rows of green beans, tomatoes, pickles, jam.
When cold weather arrived and comfort food was the order of the day, the kitchen table was where the homemade noodles were rolled out, cut, and laid to dry before being plunged into simmering chicken stock and served up with biscuits or homemade bread for dinner.
We played there. It was the scene of marathon Monopoly nights, hotly contested rounds of Boggle, Upwords and Scrabble, countless hands of Uno and Rummy Royal, and hours of quirky games no one has ever heard of: Pigmania (the livestock equivalent of Bunco where you roll pigs instead of dice) and The Farming Game, which is exactly what it sounds like it is. Bill bought the cherry trees every time we played it and he lost his shirt on them every. single. time.
We celebrated there. It was the staging point for all the holiday decorating and the prep that went along with those celebrations: dying Easter eggs; carving pumpkins; making Thanksgiving pies, Christmas cookies and candy, addressing Christmas cards. It was always the place of honor for the birthday boy or girl and their favorite cake, usually Red Velvet, sometimes Gisa’s Layer Cake, or Angel Food if my mom was baking. (Some of the birthday boys preferred pie, though. For Bill it was pecan; for my dad it was peach). It was the scene of holiday dinners, fish fries, fondue parties, wine tastings, graduation open houses. When Terry stopped by for coffee, it was our own private Starbucks.
My mother and I laid out patterns and fabric and cut out dresses, kids’ clothes, and quilt blocks there. In the weeks before family reunions it was our photo studio, mail room and Genealogy Central.
It was where we plotted the future, remembered the past; bared our souls, shared our lives, opened our hearts. It was our altar, prayer closet, confessional, worship space. According to Elizabeth Dodson Gray, “…what hallows a space is what happens there…”, and that was absolutely true for us. Looking back, I can see that everything we did at The Kitchen Table was an act of Communion in every sense of that word, with each other and with the Holy. Which is why, out of all the everyday things I’ve had to get used to doing without Bill, sitting down at The Kitchen Table alone is the most difficult for me.
There have been five different incarnations of The Kitchen Table over the years, in six different living spaces; the word games have been replaced by Apples to Apples, but it is still the center of our universe, ground zero for our life together as a family. All we say, all we do, what we share - the food and drink, the laughter and love, the care and concern, the precious memories, the hope and prayers – takes those everyday moments and that plain, simple table and makes of them Holy ground and sacred space. We are blessed beyond measure, and I am grateful for the opportunity to acknowledge and recount those blessings.
May it be so for you and yours as well.
Where or what comprises hallowed ground and sacred space for your family? Is it the table you most often gather around? A particular room or home? A treasured retreat – the lake? The beach? The mountains? The woods? The tool shed or shop? Your favorite deer blind or fishing hole?
What things happen there that make it sacred space for you? Is it in the breaking of bread? In the laughter? In the hoping and dreaming as well as remembering what was? Is it the sheer width and depth and breadth of all the things you’ve shared there through the years?
Has your shared experience in that space influenced or changed you? In what ways?
“…You prepare a table before me… You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever…” Psalm 23:5-6, NIV