Staying with my eldest son and family last fall to help out with the new baby, I naturally spent a lot of time in their nice, modern kitchen. I was in my element, baking with the 3-year-old and keeping us all in meals. Plenty of counter space, great appliances, well-stocked cupboards — everything needed was there. Except — a kitchen table.
The dining room is pleasant enough, and has a beautiful wooden table, but there’s nothing like a table in the kitchen.
Made me realize how often I stop to sit at my kitchen table, whether to peruse a cookbook, read the paper, or jot something on my to-do list. It rests my back and gives me a break from being on my feet. Like my mother-in-law before me, I will sit there while greasing muffin tins, cutting apples, or stirring up cookies.
It’s a cozy spot in the winter for tea with a friend, with the warmth of the wood stove crackling right beside us. It really is the heart of the home.
And to think of all the knees that have pulled under this table, all the blessings that have been prayed, all the work-worn hands that have taken nourishment to strengthen for the rest of a long day, all the thoughtful or difficult conversations that have taken place, all the late-night laughter that has echoed around it, all the toddlers that have been admonished not to climb on it, all the rowdy kids that have raced around it (my boys with roller skates).
Sometimes it’s hard to find a clear spot on the table, when we have spread out everything from schoolwork and mail to books that we plan to read. On the days she works from home, Martha’s writing office is set up there, with laptop and reference materials.
Other random items might take up temporary residence, too, like tools on their way back to the shop, broken machine parts (“Here’s a sample of what you’ll need at the machinery dealer”), items waiting to be returned to the farm supply store, or a toy tractor. In season, a vase of flowers may grace the table, even if just clover blossoms from the hayfield.
If one of us is going away, we leave in plain view on the table a list of our share of the chores for the family members left behind, usually with a grateful smiley face and perhaps a witty comment.
Daughter Miriam likes to clear everything off the table when she’s going to bake, while others of us just hastily push aside the napkin holder, salt and pepper, pen and pencil cup, mugs holding silverware, and other stock items.
If we didn’t have to find places for our plates each mealtime, I shudder to think how much stuff would accumulate.
When we gather around for meals, whether there are two of us or eight or 10, whether soup and crackers or a more elaborate meal, we pause to sing the Johnny Appleseed song for table grace:
The Lord is good to me,
And so I thank the Lord
Forgiving me the things I need,
The sun and the rain and the appleseed;
The Lord is good to me.
WINIFRED HOFFMAN, of Earlville, is a farmer, breeder of dual-purpose cattle and a student of life. She can be reached by emailing email@example.com.