Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Tale of Two Tables

There's something no one tells you about having three children.

They don't fit around the kitchen table.

Most of those pretty kitchen sets at the furniture store have 4 nice matching chairs and space for one chair on each side. Sure, maybe you can add a leaf to the table and create some elbow room, but you'll still have to import a desk chair or a folding chair, or in our case, bring in one from the dining room. Ever since the day Isaac graduated from the high-chair-in-the-corner and joined the rest of us at the dinner table, we jostled the positions, always with not quite enough room on one side. Chair order was determined partly by size of the person, partly by who was least likely to LOOK AT someone else and make them cry, and partly by request (Alex didn't talk for a long, long time. When he finally started talking and demanded loudly "TO SIT BY DAD!", you can bet he sat by Dad).

There was never quite enough space on that one side of the table, but good humor and love made a way.

Four years ago, Elizabeth and I flew 2000 miles, across half a continent, as she embarked on her college career. We spent 3 bittersweet days learning Boston and settling her into her new life. I felt I handled the whole thing admirably well, sad to leave her there, yet envious of the adventures ahead of her. It was only when I returned home and removed the fifth chair from the kitchen table that the enormity of the situation hit me. We no longer had need of the cumbersome 5th chair, there was space around the table for the remaining 4 of us, and I wept for the family that would never be quite the same, ever again.

Last weekend, I ate a chicken sandwich at another kitchen table. It's not a new table. It's seen better days, really. It's a bit battered, and it's crammed into a kitchen that is just nearly too small for it and its four matching ladderback chairs. It was crowded with the detritus of a hurried move across the city; just a day between a triumphant graduation and the beginning of a new job.

Elizabeth, it's your table now, and I'm the guest, not the host. No parents could be more proud.


Veronica in Aus said...

I can't believe it was 4 years ago! Wow, time flies!!!

Love your story, Jean, you certainly have a gift with words

DKelly said...

WHAT?! Seems like only yesterday that I remember the life-changing move to Boston. Congratulations Elizabeth on your graduation and being catapulted into the working world. Love the story Jean of the table. I guess time indeed does fly when you look back. Thanks for reflecting on it in your post and for sharing your thoughts with us.