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Perhaps the World Ends Here

November 26, 2012
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My mother and my daughter came to my house for Thanksgiving and we all felt very fortunate indeed. We sat around the table and talked. We sat around the table and ate. We sat around the table and drank. We sat around the table and pounded on it and shouted and played a card game we like called Rage. We sat around the table and discussed the “no singing at the table” rule. We spent a lot of our weekend together at the table, like in this Joy Harjo poem:

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 of lovers.

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 read the part about giving birth and preparing parents for burial metaphorically, because that is where my family sits to discuss events like that, and to recover from them.

Today we took my daughter to the airport, and she made both her flights and her shuttle bus to get back to college on the busiest U.S. travel day of the year. Then we came home, took her placemat off the table, took one of the leaves out, had supper, and played two games of Rage. My mother is here for two more days. The day I take her to the airport, we’ll take her placemat off the table. Then we’ll take the leaf out and Thanksgiving will be over. The table will be smaller. We will spend less time around it for a while.

Do you have a table like that?

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. November 26, 2012 7:49 am

    I have a kitchen table that my husband made from mahogany floorboards that once graced a family friend’s store. We’ve sat there with adolescent angst, holiday planning, amazing food, talk serious and silly (mostly silly). My best friend is currently very sick (has been for two years) and what I think I miss most of all is her presence and her great laugh at my table. I’m hoping that the new year will bring recovery and her table presence again.

    • November 27, 2012 8:13 am

      I hope so too. A friend like that, you need her laugh at your table to keep a certain kind of perspective.

  2. November 26, 2012 9:15 am

    What a moving post. I wish I had a table like that. It is so lovely that the three generations managed to get together round a table and talk. I hope you have many similar experiences in the future.

    • November 27, 2012 8:15 am

      Perhaps, to have a table like that, food has to occupy a fairly central place in your family life? We do have to clear the food to play our card game, because we don’t want to get the cards sticky.

      • November 30, 2012 12:59 pm

        I probably do have a table like that – it is just that my boys are too young and I don’t have a proper relationship with my Mum (because she has autism) Hopefully when my boys get older we’ll be able to do the same thing.

        • November 30, 2012 6:03 pm

          When Walker was young, he used to be allowed to stand at his place at the table for the length of time it took him to consume a modicum of food. Because little boys don’t like to sit.

  3. drgeek permalink
    November 26, 2012 4:25 pm

    We have used two tables in our house since we bought it in 2007. The first was a 42″ W. H. Gunlocke oak finish round office table with four solid oak chairs that I purchased in 1994. The set was university surplus, and built like a tank. I carried that table with me through three apartments, a house rental, and finally into the first house I owned. I’m not sure I can count the number of birthday and holiday parties, dinner parties, and intimate dinners I had at that table. Mrs. Geek didn’t like the round shape, so we purchased a larger, rectangular table in 2009 that took almost three months to arrive — it had to be shipped from Vietnam. That is the table we had when we brought our son home, and where he learned to eat regular food. It’s also the table we used to host a number of holiday dinners… including Thanksgiving last week.

    • November 27, 2012 8:18 am

      We’ve had two tables here–the first one didn’t have enough leaves and I’d wiped most of the polyurethane finish off, so we went back to the unfinished furniture store and bought a bigger one for our second decade of being parents. I thought this would mean I could redo the polyurethane on the first one, but it’s downstairs covered with papers most of the time, so it hasn’t mattered enough to tackle yet.

  4. November 26, 2012 6:48 pm

    I love this poem.

    And, yes, kitchen tables are like that–centers.

    We don’t have a no singing at the table rule.

    • November 27, 2012 8:19 am

      Our “no singing at the table” rule was instituted because otherwise my children would never have made time to actually ingest food. They were always singing. Now we have it so that Ron and Walker will participate in conversation. They love to have the floor, and singing (or reciting lyrics) is one way to do it.

  5. November 26, 2012 6:56 pm

    We have a kitchen table but that’s not where people congregate in our house. They always lean against kitchen counters instead.

    • November 27, 2012 8:20 am

      Interesting. If I came, I would find a chair. Me and my knee (my knee and I) don’t do a lot of leaning.

  6. November 26, 2012 7:28 pm

    Because I live by myself, my dining room table tends to become a handy place to put things, with perhaps a small corner kept clear for eating on the rare occasions that I eat at the table. But it was cleared off last Wednesday for my parents and niece who were coming for Thanksgiving. Clearing that table has become part of my ritual for welcoming people into my home. When the table is clear, I’m making room for someone to come into my world for a while.

    • November 27, 2012 8:22 am

      That’s a great metaphor! Our coffee table is a bit like that. Luckily, it has room for books underneath, so making room for people to come in and use it often just means moving the books down. Then we have a surface for wine glasses and peanuts or whatever.

  7. November 26, 2012 8:49 pm

    The poem really resonates … especially at this time of the year when leaves of tables are being added and removed. Thanks for sharing.

    • November 27, 2012 8:23 am

      Yes, it’s a poignant moment, removing that last leaf. It can make me feel bereft sometimes, but usually cozy, like now it’s just us for a while.

  8. November 29, 2012 6:36 am

    This is beautiful. My kitchen table is an antique that my mom had purchased. I had many meals here growing up – and many lectures. She worked on schedules, I worked on homework. When I inherited the home, my kids ate meals here… they did their home work, and yes they were lectured here too. School projects, and now… I write many a review here. Good thoughts and reminders thank you.

    • November 29, 2012 7:43 am

      Now, that’s the kind of table the poem is about–the kind that’s the center of the home for more than one generation! Our table is in the center of our house, both physically and psychically. Yours sounds like it could have even been the center of another family’s house before it came to your mother’s.

  9. December 1, 2012 3:17 pm

    My kitchen table belonged to my father’s grandmother. The history it caries is staggering, the stories countless. And now my grandchildren also sit at it to eat, laugh, do homework, have tea parties, color eggs, …

    I love, love, love, love this poem. It brought so many memories flooding over me as I sat here – at the table – and read it.

    • December 3, 2012 10:58 am

      I particularly like the way a wooden table retains vestiges of egg coloring done at it over the years.

  10. Queen Hasna permalink
    May 19, 2013 7:19 am

    that,s great ! ^^

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