We used to have big old-fashioned family gatherings at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas at Grandma’s house. Helping Grandma and Grandpa, it was as if everyone were in a flotilla. Deep in conversation, we all floated in family formation from the kitchen to the dining room and back again to set the table and to help make sure everything was ready.
Ah but then something came out that ended the togetherness: a smaller table. We little cousins knew what THAT was: the children’s table – our table. Face it, we loved playing together but we did not want to eat together. We wanted to be with the adults. The adult’s table was only a matter of feet from us but it seemed as if we were on an island off the coast.
After dinner, the adults would sit around the table for hours talking in the residual glow of another good meal at Grandma’s. We children carried plates to the kitchen as they talked. I hurried through this so that I could stand by my parents at their table and listen to the stories. There was a living room filled with comfortable furniture but that table was the center of the universe at holiday time. To move to another room would have broken some kind of spell.
The sad fact about a table for children and another for adults is that it gets the children thinking about what it would take for them to get to the big table. If there were room enough for everyone, we would all have been together. So you think and you imagine a way and then it hits you: death. Someone at that table would have to die before you could have a place. Oh my God did you felt guilty for having such a thought as if the thought itself were a murder weapon. Kids are ripe for tragedy. They despair of a way out. It’s the drama of childhood!
When we all became adults with little people of our own, the reasonable solution finally arrived: dinner out. It was never as cozy or warm or as good as holiday dinner at Grandma’s house but then in this milieu, I usually got to sit next to Grandma herself. That was worth the wait. That’s one of the wonderful moments when you realize it isn’t about a place – it’s about the people in it. Grandma’s table can be anywhere as long as Grandma is sitting at it with us.
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