Gratitude at the Kitchen Table

Last weekend I surprised my mother by showing up unannounced on Mother’s Day. She knew two of my sisters would be there, but was not expecting me to roll through the door at church Sunday morning. Her eyes welled with tears as she gave me a hug, saying “Thank you for a wonderful surprise.”

Her expression of thanks was not unexpected. I was raised in a family which practices gratitude and celebration frequently. Little gestures taught me the importance of being thankful for each day. Many of these lessons were learned around the kitchen table.

I have heard the story of how my parents acquired their table many times. Fifty seven years ago, Mom and Dad purchased their house. Shortly after moving in they bought the table, six chairs, and a large upright piano from an acquaintance who was moving. For $60 they gained furniture which became the heart of the house.

The table has seen a variety of uses through the years. All of the pattern pieces for every dress I made throughout high school and college were cut on that table. Dad has ground venison and pork into sausage on the side of that table after many succesful hunting seasons. In the early years of my family cookie bake, we covered the table with flour and sugar. There is a section of the table where you can see newsprint in the varnish – the result of one of my sisters attempting to iron something quickly on the table using a towel on top of an old newspaper.

We have gathered around the table in sadness. When my aunt called to tell us my grandfather had died, I saw Dad fall into a chair at the table and bury his face in his hands. In seventh grade I sat at the table with Mom, hugging her as she sobbed after receiving the news of her youngest brother’s death. I remember gathering at the table one summer when my sister’s friend Bill came to visit a few months before he died of AIDS. On Sunday Mom and I held hands across the table as we cried, sharing memories of my sister Mary Jane.

The table has also seen great celebrations. Birthday parties, anniversary dinners, holiday meals and family visits bring us all together. Leaves are added to accommodate extra guests making the table so long it is nearly impossible to open the refrigerator door.

Photo of elderly women and a young man playing cards. They are seated at a kitchen table covered in a white tablecloth and food.
My family gathers at the table for celebrations, meals and card games. Sometimes all at once! Photo courtesy of S. DiNoto.

Mom’s table is always covered by a tablecloth, unless friends have come for the weekly card game. Some nights during high school, Mom would surprise us by setting the table for dinner using the “good china” and a fancy tablecloth. When asked about the reason for the special dishes, she would always say something like, “It’s Tuesday, we’re eating together and I love you. That’s enough of a reason.” Fancy things didn’t need to be reserved just for guests. We were worthy of special treatment too.

Everyone is welcome to eat at Mom and Dad’s table. If you stop by for a visit, you will be given a seat and offered food repeatedly. It doesn’t matter if you say no – food has been known to just appear. Even if the kitchen is full of people, there is always room for one more and guests are made to feel welcome.

Last week I stayed for Sunday dinner with my parents. As I was setting the table, Mom told me to plan to sit at the head of the table. This space, usually reserved for my father, would allow me room to pull my wheelchair up to the table without needing to worry about accidentally running over Dad’s oxygen tubing. I questioned her because not once in my life have I ever sat at “Dad’s place” at the table. She assured me this would be easier for him.

As the three of us gathered for dinner, we bowed our heads to pray. Sitting in a different place offered me a new perspective on the table, the kitchen, my parents.Β I thought of all the meals served on this table over the years. Three meals a day for fifty seven years – 20,805 days – is an amazing 62,415 meals. Sure, there have been days and weeks where the table sat empty as my parents traveled. But think of the stories that table could tell if it were able to talk!

A rough calculation let me know I have said prayers of gratitude at the table for at least 12,000 of those 62,415 meals. As I professed thankfulness again last week I made a pledge to myself to return for more meals at my parents’ table. I get the sense it is waiting for a story teller who will listen.


40 thoughts on “Gratitude at the Kitchen Table

  1. Now this is a great post. I love that different perspective and I love the history that table has to serve up! Also one of the greatest uses of math I’ve ever seen…counting up meals at a family table….what could be better?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! It started out as a completely different post and then it took a turn and I ended up with this. I love it when that happens.

      I admit I used a calculator to double check the figures because at first I didn’t believe them! After living in a house for so long, furniture begins to tell stories, don’t you think?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, I do indeed! I’m a big subscriber to that old saying, “If walls could talk!” LOL. And yes, I would’ve had to use a calculator too…….math is not my forte though I was an auditor for a dozen years. LOL. Anyway, I think that’s why I was so impressed to see that math used in a way I thought was worth it!

        Liked by 1 person

    • This piece actually took the shape it is in because I did the math and looked at putting into numbers the meals spent at the table. The numbers changed everything and I re-wrote it. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts!


    • Oh, you make me blush and smile like a student praising a teacher. Which is fitting because I have learned so much from reading and watching you. I appreciate you offering your comments here. I know there are stories in that wood.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It has been a great table for so long. My wedding dress along with the other wedding dresses were also cut on this table. This post brings back memories of planned celebrations and impromptu gatherings. Thank you for helping me remember such happy times. Yes, sad times, but these sad times bring smiles because we are together. Will be looking for the blog about the piano, now if that could talk…..


    • Yes – all the wedding and bridesmaid dresses, the prom dresses and other outfits. I’m glad I could help with memories. Just wait until the piano gets a turn! πŸ˜‰


  3. Such a heart stirring piece, Denise. It reminded me of the table we had when I was a kid. Metal legs. Nothing fancy but lots of memories.

    So much thankfulness can’t do anything less than make the whole world a better place!


      • Agreed. One of the funny memories is of my little brother. He had an interest in mechanics from a young age. As a toddler, he would often loosen the screws that held the legs to the table. We almost ended up with it in our lap a few times. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

        • I always sat on the bench on the inside of the table. At holiday dinners, conversation continues around the table for hours after the food is gone. I would climb under the table to be excused so everyone did not have to get up to let me out.


  4. Beautiful story, Dee. It’s amazing to think of all the memories made around something that is seemingly an innate object, yet so deeply interwoven into your family’s history.


  5. Well-Mom and Dad will want to see this post, for sure. Did you know that the table came with very large boxy legs? Dad went to the neighbor’s machine shop and put them on a lath to trim down. Just found out that story today from them. See, it’s still telling stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That was a wonderful tribute to your parents, their way of life and of raising their children. I am glad that you published something so thoughtful, and hope you sit many more times with your parents and other family at that special table


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