Words by Rebecca Rice
The table is 15 years old. The varnish and stain have been worn away from where there are usually plates and serving dishes. There are two hidden leaves in the table to extend it that are constantly being pulled out. There are six chairs that match. And throughout the downstairs there are also strategically placed chairs that are pulled to be added to the table. How many to each side? It depends on the week. A tablecloth covers the worn down wood.
Everyone has their spot, and guests are pointed to neutral seats. Like most big tables it is the focal point of our sunroom. Three of the walls are made of windows and glass doors looking out over our yard, with a woodburning stove in the corner, and glass French doors leading into the kitchen. It’s a beautiful room to sit in during all four seasons. But it’s the Sunday night spectacle that is its crowning glory.
Every Sunday my family gathers together for family dinner. We pile all the food onto the table and check in with each other. On a warm summer night, the windows will be open and our neighbors will be wondering what we're laughing about. In the winter, the woodburning stove is lit and crackling. The ambiance changes with the seasons but a constant is that, whether in joy or stress, my family week after week comes to the table to spend time together.
The food is always different. Everyone brings something. Sunday morning the family chat lights up, everyone having an idea or sharing what they have in their fridge. Some weeks it all comes together in a cohesive theme. Other weeks it’s a smorgasbord of different things. Pasta, hot chili, refreshing salads, sharp green beans, grilled chicken, pineapple, mashed potatoes, quinoa, pumpkin, tomatoes, steak. You never know what will come to the table. A few things are certain though - the table will be full, and the dishes emptied.
My parents have always been adamant about prioritizing family time. Coming from Italian and English families meant they were already programmed to have that Sunday meal together. Years after all of us were living in the house we still make a point to have that time. The group has grown. With the addition of spouses, children, boyfriends, girlfriends, and my mom’s mother the table has needed to grow. It’s not a quiet affair by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, the kids often say we're too loud and to go into the living room and shut the French doors. But to me, the sounds of my siblings and parents talking all at once is the warmest sound I know.
I remember loving big holidays like Christmas because I would get to be at the kids' table with all my cousins. It was loud, raucous, and full of laughs. Sunday nights are now like that at the adults' table. Like the food, the people are varied. A donut man, a chemical scientist, two social workers, a retired UPS driver (now pastor), a writer, two missionaries, and two vocational homemakers. Topics fly around the room like the food fight in the movie Hook. Conversations are colorful, debated, encouraged, and laughed at. Some topics we courteously avoid. While others, like the poem Jabberwocky, are brought up just to ruffle feathers. Things are whispered, most shouted. Tears are shed, mostly of joy. And always there’s laughter.
Our table has seen it all. It’s played the part of the cornucopia both for food and joyful conversation. Then at other times, it’s been a way of keeping distance, a negotiation table. The base of the table is heavy and strong. It can hold a lot. It carries 15 years of memories. The worn spots tell of hot dishes and full plates. The legs are soft from people putting their feet on them in relaxed postures. On the outside, it’s just a couple of pieces of wood held together. But to me, it will always be where my family gathers.
Editor's Note: As part of our illuminate monthly writing membership, our writers have the opportunity to get their writing featured on our blog. Click here to find out more and sign up. We hope you enjoyed this selected piece. Congratulations, Rebecca!
About the Author:
Rebecca is a die-hard romantic who fell in love with stories and has never quite recovered. Exploring femininity and womanhood are lifelong passions of hers. You can find her writing over at https://thehydrangeaproject.com/. She volunteers as the blog manager for Love True, a local non-profit set on ending human trafficking in our lifetime. And in her spare time, she tries to perfect her baking, badminton game, and being the best aunt to her nieces and nephew she can be.