A lot of the furniture we own once belonged to relatives. That was the case for our first kitchen table. It had belonged to my Great Uncle Everett. Uncle Everett moved to a nursing home when I was a young adult moving into an apartment, and he generously let me have some furniture from his home. Among the things I loved, because they were his, was that kitchen table.
That same table stayed with me into marriage and moved with us as our family grew (over 20 years and eight moves!); but our growing family had outgrown it and knees fought for space in between the awkwardly placed legs. So when we moved into our present home, we searched for a new table. At one of the places we went to shop, there were a couple hundred beautiful tables crammed into a building. It was there that we walked through a maze of options and found a table we loved. It had a feature we were hoping for – a place in the table itself to store its two large 18 inch leaves. When both leaves are in the table, it measures an impressive 102 inches long and seats 12 comfortably.
Our present kitchen table has been in our home all of the 18 years that we’ve lived here. Our table represents many hours of our lives together, and it has seated many. Our family of five filled that table three times a day, some days more than three times. It has held wiggly children, squirrelly middle schoolers, too-cool teenagers and college students on break. It has held countless birthday cakes, presents and cards. It held graduation cakes and anniversary flowers. It saw many a thanksgiving turkey and Christmas ham. It has held family games, birthday cards to address and those received. Pictures show it with Christmas cookies being frosted and Easter baskets being emptied. At it sat acquaintances, new and old friends, loved ones we now miss, and our children’s childhood friends now far away.
On that table, I served countless homemade meals to my family. On it I placed fancy desserts to share with friends. At it, I paid monthly bills and helped with homework. It has seen our children grow up and ourselves grow older. It has tasted spilled root beer floats and crumbs of many flavors. It has smelled seasons and holidays, sweaty bodies and grandma’s perfume. It has heard compliments and criticisms, secrets and celebrations, stories and scoldings, jeers and jokes, “I love yous” and laughter. It holds memories and meaning. The table we picked out and brought home has become more than a table, it represents who we were, and are. It has become the heart of our home.
Since the table joined us, MS has taken much from me. I can no longer cook food or serve it on the table, but I was at least able to be at the table. That is, until the wheelchair.
Wheelchairs are large and lumbering and don’t always fit well at tables. When families gather together, wheelchairs don’t maneuver well around and between bodies. When mealtimes come, and people we love gather at the table of memories, mealtime is more than a meal, and being present there is a symbol of belonging. I did not realize the importance of being at the table, until I did not fit there at a large family gathering. And suddenly, not fitting felt like not belonging; and an unexpected flood of emotion forced its way through me and spilled out of my eyes. Others were confused, and I could not find words to explain.
They did not realize what had happened. They did not understand all that the table means and how I value being at it. I didn’t either, until I couldn’t be there with them.
That was two years ago. Like other things with MS, using a wheelchair at a table has required adjustments, both physical and emotional. While my legs do not fit under the table, I get as close to the table as I can and hold my plate on my lap. It’s not ideal, but it’s the best solution I have found. I won’t allow my wheelchair to keep me from the table, or my family.
Under it, at it, or near it, our table is still the gathering place for our family where we feast on festive occasions. Whether it’s just Mr. Legs and I, with friends old or new, or with our offspring (and soon their offspring – there’s one on the way!), the table is always ready for another celebration or a heart-to-heart talk.
And maybe, just maybe, like Uncle Everett, when we have passed on, someone in our family will want, and love to use our table……….because it was ours.
Uncle Everett at his table when the table was dressed for his birthday.
Uncle Everett’s table in my apartment.
Family and friends at Uncle Everett’s table.
Our family at our present table.
(Although not in the kitchen, we do still have and use Uncle Everett’s table.)