Perhaps the World Ends Here
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what,
we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the
table so it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe
at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what
it means to be human. We make men at it,
we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms
around our children. They laugh with us at our poor
falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back
together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella
in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place
to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate
the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared
our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow.
We pray of suffering and remorse.
We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table,
while we are laughing and crying,
eating of the last sweet bite.
I remember the night we bought our table fifteen years ago— it was three weeks before Christmas, we had just moved into our home in Woodbury and we were going to host Christmas Eve for my family, all seventeen of them. The perfect table was at Restoration Hardware on Grand Avenue— it was 8 feet long, made of planks from a whiskey distillery in England and it was on sale. It barely fit in our dining room and we didn't have enough chairs but it was exactly what I had dreamed of. As a teenager, I devoured books and I particularly loved books about the English countryside. I wanted a large stone hearth, a handful of spaniels, an AGA and a farmhouse table when most girls were thinking about Guess jeans and Tretorn tennis shoes. Needless to say, the table we brought home on that snowy night made me very, very happy.
I wanted a table that would see us through a lifetime of dinners, birthday cakes, homework, dogs who sit in chairs (okay, I really had no idea I'd ever own a dog who sat at the table), blueberry pancakes, Monopoly marathons, cribbage games and friendships forged over plates, forks and glasses of wine. Our table isn't fancy but it's well-loved— Ted takes a belt sander to it every few years to clean up the stains, dings and scratches, we rub it down with beeswax and then it's time to add the patina of living, eating, playing and studying all over again.
I served my first prime rib for Christmas Eve dinner at this table. We've eaten bone marrow, oysters, Scotch eggs, porchetta, souffle, pizza, smoked ribs, corn dogs and a timpano on its whiskey distillery planks. We've celebrated birthdays with Thomas the Train, the Wiggles, skateboard and pony cakes. It's seen its fair share of glue, glitter and markers (before I declared the Dougherty home a craft free zone) and it's withstood little boys with forks, Matchbox cars and Legos. I laid my head upon it and wept when I learned Ted's Dad had passed on. We've named babies, dogs and boats while seated around this table. It's been the first line of defense for mail, school bags, baby seats, laundry, grocery bags, textbooks and all the miscellaneous items that seem to reproduce around our house. It literally is a testament to the last fifteen years of our lives and as the kids grow up and move on, it will be the wooden, four-legged tether to our precious history.
The beautiful part of the story told by a family table is it goes on. It goes on to include friends not yet met, partners not yet married and grandchildren not yet conceived. But they are coming and when they do, our table will continue to bear witness to the blessings we are so very fortunate to receive. It's our legacy, re-imagined as a table.