In the summer, we eat most meals at the picnic table on our porch. We've had our picnic table for ten years, since the first summer of our marriage; the table used to be too big for the two of us, plenty of room to spread out our books. Now five of us balance on its wobbly benches and try to avoid the splintery spots. Books no longer fit on the chaotic surface. Sometimes ten years feels as long as a whole decade; sometimes only a moment has passed, just long enough for someone to pass the corn.
It's the center of the kitchen, the center of our household, really. It is often seen as empty space, workspace for almost anything imaginable. Bills, homework, crafts, Christmas wrapping, letter writing. We even keep one of the leaves in so that we can move everything to the side and still have a space for the three of us to eat. We tried building a jigsaw puzzle on it recently, but there just wasn't enough room. So we borrowed an old rickety card table and moved the puzzle onto it. It sits in the living room and now anyone can add a piece as they walk by. It may not be sound enough for a rousing game of Bridge, but it can still hold a jigsaw with the best of them. Our Stickley table we inherited from M's parents. It's been with us in each of our six homes. In New jersey our attic apartment was so small we couldn't even set it up. I can't even remember where we ate. But I do remember bathing our baby in the kitchen sink while Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane played on the stereo. Now here we are 12 years later. The table has been so supportive through all of these years. It's had its fair share of hardships - things spilled on it over and over and in definite need of refinishing. But as we sit around it in the evenings it suits out purposes just fine. We are together as a family: eating dinner, talking or more likely reading. We each have our seat at the table and I often wonder who sat here before me. How much has this table seen since its creation in 1955? And I wonder too how many more families will sit, pay bills, write letters and wrap Christmas presents on this bit of solid wood.