Our kitchen table was the old antique kind with the fold down ends for compact storage. Our dining room chairs were overturned plastic file crates, sometimes with a cushion thrown on top for added comfort. It was just the two of us most of the time, but when we’d have any number of guests over, we’d all move into the living room where we’d sit in our butterfly chairs, on the huge bean bag chair, or on the floor. No, our home wasn't very friendly if you were over 60-- you could sit down, but you had to work to get back up.
For years we went without a proper kitchen table and chairs. After the basement apartment, we moved into somewhat larger spaces, where we could have the table’s drop-down ends extended all the time, and we upgraded our crates to fold-up chairs. But it wasn't until my dad passed away, leaving us what at the time seemed like a huge amount of money, that we were able to finally purchase a dining set.
It might sound unimportant to have purchased a table and chairs, but it was a turning point in our family’s dynamic. By that time, both kids were born and we’d been living in Rick’s parent’s basement (for the second time around). We were sleeping in one small room that got even smaller once our queen bed, dresser, toddler bead, and crib were added to it. The other room that my in-laws generously gave us was used as the kids’ playroom.
We had zero money. Rick was going to school full-time and working full-time, and we had one car. When he left for the day, I was left with no way to go anywhere, and two kids (Liv was two, Ike was a newborn) to watch over in a house that wasn't mine. I felt alone and sorry for myself.
We were living there when I found out that my dad was sick. And when, a month later, he passed away. The money that we inherited afforded us once again to move into an apartment of our own. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, with its granite countertops, kitchen pass-through, laundry room, and balcony. And we treated ourselves to a brand new, fancy dining set with four chairs and a bench. But this apartment wasn't just an apartment, and this dining set wasn't just a dining set.
As much as I was--and will forever be-- grateful that we were able to live with Rick’s parents, the apartment gave us the wings and breath that we needed to feel like our own family unit. And the dining table and chairs provided the place where we’d sit together, not only to share our meals, but to color pictures and do craft projects, to put together puzzles and play games, to carve pumpkins, and to write notes to each other and letters to friends and family far way. To do homework, to brainstorm goals and how to reach them. As the kids have grown, it has become the spot where we gather to talk about important family decisions, and challenges we each face. To read the scriptures and plan service projects. We have bowed our heads there, not only in prayer over food, but in fervent prayers of pleading for needed blessings upon our family and upon those we love.
Elder LeGrand R. Curtis said:
To have a time when the family meets at the kitchen table may take considerable adjustment and careful planning, but what could be of more importance to the unity of the family, the spiritual growth of the family, the bridges built between members of a family as they talk, listen, and respond, surrounded by love?
After a long stretch of Rick traveling for work, and life wrapping its long, strong fingers around us, last night we realized that we haven’t been spending as much time around the table together--not even for meals. We were so sad! We revised the night’s plan and made dinner together at home, ate together at the table, then cleared it off and played a game as we ate three different kinds of pie. We giggled as we created family inside jokes. We smiled at each other as we tried to guess what each was thinking.
But I don’t know if anyone could have guessed what I was thinking: I was just grateful for this table, this piece of wood that is so much more than a piece of furniture.