The kitchen table

Last weekend, we gathered round my mother’s kitchen table for our family’s annual cookie party. 

I doubt Mom thinks of it as a “party” when she is preparing for it. Leading up to one of the best days of the year,  she spends hours mixing and kneading dough for sugar cookies and cutting out dozens upon dozens of Santas, Christmas trees, stockings, stars, candy canes and leg lamps.

Yes, leg lamps—aka A Christmas Story.

Mom bakes the cookies, cleans her sugar-filled kitchen, and then goes about slicing and dicing carrots, celery, potatoes, onions, and more for her homemade vegetable soup.

In other words, it’s a work party for my mother until her children and grandchildren stream through her front door. That’s when the memory of her labor evaporates and the fun part takes shape.

With the addition of two leaves, Mom’s round kitchen table transforms to a large oval. A flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth covers the top from end-to-end. 

In the middle are cookie decorating supplies: paint brushes, icing in various hues, and sprinkles in every shape and color imaginable. Sheets of wax paper—our work mats—line each table setting.

We decorate cookies to the sounds of Christmas music, football games, and laughter—lots of laughter.

If asked to name the most important piece of furniture in a house, I’d answer without hesitation—the kitchen table.

Around my mother’s kitchen table, our family has decorated enough Christmas cookies to baffle a mathematician. There, we’ve celebrated countless birthday parties and holiday meals. 

Her table has served as our roundtable site for family meetings. It has also survived a few arguments. That table is the perfect arena for the occasional arm wrestling match.

Many of my fondest memories of growing up revolve around everyday gatherings at suppertime. Our dad held court in the captain’s chair; Mom claimed the chair opposite him.

Dad was usually laughing or chortling, which is another word for trying hard not to laugh. My brothers and I made futile attempts to hide our peas under mashed potatoes while cutting in on each other’s stories as we vied to be heard.

The kitchen table was our “time-out” space—not disciplinary time-outs, but bonding time-outs. We abandoned all responsibilities to come together and catch up on each other’s lives.

Our parents shared stories about work and church and extended family members. My brothers and I told stories of school, the playground, boyfriends, and girlfriends. We announced wedding engagements and pregnancies around that table, still do.

The aroma of Mom’s roast beef or spaghetti and meatballs or hamburgers and homemade French fries or, yes, her vegetable soup lured us to the table and away from all other distractions.

When Gary and I married, we bought a small kitchen table. There, we shared big dreams and figured out how to pay our bills. Next thing we knew, we had upgraded to a larger model to accommodate the one, two, and three children that came bouncing our way.

Somehow, between Gary running a business and my part-time jobs, life got crazy with carpooling to practices for swim team, cheerleading, baseball, and more.

The busier our schedules, the more important our kitchen table became. Around that table life outside stopped, sometimes for only 30 minutes, but long enough for us to remember we were–we are–family.

“Boba’s cookie party is Saturday!” I told my young niece Emma the week leading up to the big day.

“I know! I can’t wait!” Emma said, and then in a serious voice, she added, “I’m really good at it, Aunt Genny.”

She is. Her resume boasts a lifetime of cookie decorating experience—seven years at her Boba’s table.

A kitchen table filled with family members makes a house a home.

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