By: Susan Sohn
A number of years ago my parents made the big decision to move from our farm and family home into our small, very quaint town. As many of you know, a move like this is huge. With well over 30 years, 4 children plus countless family members and friends who have created memories in the home and on the property, it was a big task. How does one capture all of that in moving boxes and containers? Is it possible?
I guess the answer is simple. It is captured and held forever in the recess of our minds, our memories that will last a lifetime. Many of you reading this know what I’m talking about, you’ve gone down this road before. Whether it has been with your parents, in-laws, friends or perhaps yourselves. Moving and the things that have accumulated, the stories, the artworks, the tree houses, the boxes of miscellaneous things in the attic … the list goes on.
In prep for their big move, and in an effort to make things a little easier, my siblings and I all came home to start the process. The plan was for us to go through the house and take the things that we wanted, the things that we had asked for or had our eye on over the years. This was definitely not the easiest task because, again, where do you begin? What do you take to remind you of this glorious place that you have called home for so many years? For me, it was an emotional journey. I seem to attach myself to things that trigger the warmth of home and through the move, I knew I wanted to stay deeply connected to this place, this house that had seen me grow from a four-year-old, pig-tailed little girl into a thirty-something woman (yes, the move was a few years ago!).
There were many things I decided I would like (including the box of stuff my siblings had lovingly prepared for me before I arrived and labelled ‘Susan’s Shit’). In and through all of it there was one thing that stood out and I decided to ask my parents if I could have it. It was old, had no real value and for all I know was probably picked up at a garage sale somewhere along the many starts and stops in our life as a family. I wanted the kitchen table.
Some may think it a strange request. Why, when I was surrounded by great antiques and gorgeous items, would I want the lowly table?
Firstly, for those who don’t know our family well, you need to understand that in our house the kitchen table was the central nervous system of our home. The table was where life was planned, worked out and lived. Our table has seen more action than just meals to enjoy, there were many hours of conversation; whether it was the early morning coffee with neighbours who dropped in, warm winter breakfasts, my dad’s 12 pm lunch or the countless dinners that have been shared or maybe the late night heart-to-hearts. Whatever the case may be, our kitchen table always played host to much laughter, some tears, always great food, many jokes and so much more.
Over the years I have learned that a kitchen table isn’t simply wood, varnish and nails, rather it is like a giant memory box. The kitchen table is the gathering spot where life is shared, where dreams are realized, where vision is cast and where laughter can be heard. Something I find particularly sad is in new home development, many homes are being designed without space for a kitchen table. Certainly, a trend that I will ever adopt because through my lived experience I have come to understand the power of the table.
There is something significant about a kitchen or dining table
As I look through history, I see that through feasting and dining, cultures come together. There is strength in breaking bread together as families and as communities. I think about The Last Supper and the original painting by Da Vinci of Jesus and his disciples gathered at a table. Although I love this painting I’m challenged by its lack of fullness and by that I mean where are the women and children?
History records and tells us that the Passover meal is always intended to be shared by all members of the family including travellers, and guests whose families were too small or too poor to buy the meal for themselves. And, the laws of Passover require children to ask questions so that they can learn the meaning of the Passover meal from their parents. So with that in mind, my personal belief is that there is more to the table.
I’m fascinated that a table was chosen as the location to speak this lasting message of hope. Jesus could have chosen anywhere for this significant act to occur yet he chose the table to share such an important poignant moment. A moment that has travelled through the chronicles of time, crossed cultures and belief systems, a picture that has adorned the walls of the greatest museums. This scene is used in advertising campaigns, a print can be found in most airports and bookstores, it is used in a multitude of ways.
Why has this message of the table travelled far and wide and why does it never date and why does it always resonate and cross so many lines? Through this one act, the choice to use the table, I am compelled to believe that there is a message to all. Tables are sacred places. They are a place where we can come together, where we can talk about the hard things that are thrown our way, it is a place where we can relax and enjoy each other’s company, a place to communicate (which by the way comes from the word commune), the table is a safe place to gather, replenish and simply be together.
With this in mind, I encourage you to use your dining table to its full potential. Through my work and travels, I have seen countless families come together, broken hearts mended and so much more, simply through sitting at the table together and sharing a meal we are able to work our way back to what really matters in life. Something else that adds to this story is how we are created. Our system requires us to stop and fuel our bodies through food and water more than once a day. We are uniquely designed to stop, sit and replenish. A stunning and very organic opportunities for us to come together. As families, we can use this as a critical part of our family schedules.
If you haven’t enjoyed a meal together at the family table for a while I encourage you to dust the table off, move the bills, paperwork and laundry pile to another place and let everyone in your home know that dinner is on at 6 pm. Prepare a family favourite and allow yourself to be amazed as children gather, teenagers come out of their rooms gravitating to the aroma in the home. See your family gather. I promise you will be amazed. If you find yourself alone and without family then I encourage you to extend yourself and invite someone to your table. If gathering at the table is something you do regularly then please keep it up and take it a step further and invite someone over and share at your table.
I have lived away from family for most of my adult life. This being the case, there is one thing I know for sure. If I call home to my mother’s house and there is a family dinner happening, the phone will get passed around from person to person so we can all say hello, I know exactly where my two brothers will be sitting (they always sit in the same chair on the same side of the table and have done my entire life) my beautiful mother will be at the head of the table, my late father’s chair will be occupied by a well deserving grandchild and all of this warms my soul and the simplicity of this one act, this seemingly insignificant act allows me the feeling that everything will be well with the world.
I am happy to report that my parents gave me the old kitchen table (pictured below). It still holds the chip that I etched out one warm summer day in 1978. It has travelled with me across the ocean and held many places in our home. The picture here is of it nestled neatly in my kitchen with three jars on it Faith | Love | Hope. Currently, it serves as my desk in my office and I know that as the years continue and as life changes I will hear the voices of my family and friends simply by sitting at that table and allowing the richness and memories to flood my mind. Use your tables friends, and always remember to cook a little extra just in case someone turns up to visit at dinner time.
Article supplied with thanks to Susan Sohn.
About the Author: Susan is a self confessed social media ‘maverick’ whose focus on others leads her to connect people to stories and one another.