We received our first kitchen table as a wedding gift. Oak and 62” round, it came with two leaves and six rickety chairs. It had been handed down through my brother in law’s family for a generation or two and we were honored to receive it.
The table was perfect for our apartment and I did everything seated there. Together we journeyed through my life as a newlywed. I studied for college, paid bills, and wrote letters. I prepared meals, entertained our families and played late night Uno games with friends and neighbors. The table became the center of our home. I adorned her with flowers, candles, holiday decor, and 1950’s tablecloths.
Soon we were blessed with two children and one leaf was permanently placed, making the table oval. From here, I heard tales of other children and listened intently as my children’s minds began to expand and grow in a world that I was no longer controlling. This table was the special place for birthday celebrations featuring lop-sided homemade cakes. I mended boo-boo’s, negotiated peace talks, and suffered over late homework assignments. At this table, I cried into my milk and brownies the night that our son, Seth announced he would join the Marines during a time of war.
When Seth got married we decided to hand the table to the next generation. We were empty nesters now, off on a different journey. My husband, Joe built a huge counter to prepare food for the two of us or for our family gatherings of fifty.
A convenient breakfast bar, we centered there each evening, dropping our work bags at one end and preparing and serving dinner right from the counter. Often we carried our plates into the living room to watch TV, a treat we rarely indulged in when the kids were home.
Time passed and the dining room remained empty. We eventually purchased two plastic tables from Menards, covered them with tablecloths, and this served as our table when our kids and grans came over. All ten of us around one big table, it was great! We liked it so much we decided it was time to purchase a new table. We took a trip to Shipshewana, but the $10,000 price tag sent us home empty-handed.
One day Joe called and said, “They are getting rid of an old conference table at work. It seats ten, but you could squeeze in four more chairs at the corners. It’s not wood, it has a Formica top. Do you want me to bring it home?” A hearty yes was all he needed to lug it home. We bought ten stainless steel chairs, a rug the same width and length as the table, and voila! A family gathering place was created ready for meals, special occasions, and craft days or jarring up honey which can create a sticky mess. I never worry about nicks or scars to the table but embrace all the spills, glue and glitter that two gran-girls can bring! Most days the table is empty, ready for company.
Annually The Porter County Community Foundation hosts a tea. This year the speaker was Sarah Harmeyer, the founder of Neighbor’s Table and a self-acclaimed “People gatherer.” Sarah moved to Dallas and found herself working long hours, exhausted, and lonely. When reflecting on her life, she discovered she was most energized when she was at a table preparing and sharing a meal with others. She asked her dad to make a table that would seat twenty and placed it in her back yard. She sent invitations to three hundred neighbors requesting them to join her for a carry-in supper. Ninety neighbors came to the first event!
Harmacher has since served over three thousand people at her backyard table. In 2017, she left her full-time job and began making and selling tables with her father. With a goal of having backyard tables in all 50 states by 2020, she is already half way there!
Sarah got me to thinking about all the wonderful things I had done around the table. She emphasized that it wasn’t what I was doing at the table that held my memories, nor was it the table. Rather, it was the people that were with me that provided the warmth to my heart. It wasn’t the food that delivered the sustenance, but the conversation that was shared. She challenged me to begin inviting friends and strangers alike to our table, for there in may lay the memories of tomorrow.
With the holidays quickly approaching I have lots of plans for our table. You too will have an abundance of opportunities to sit around the table. Who will you invite?