|Around The Kitchen
Teresa P. Thompson
2004 by Teresa P. Thompson
The cool breeze blowing through the cottage-style windows along with the aroma of fresh brewed coffee seemed to engulf a person as they entered our small country kitchen. Of all the rooms of the house, there seemed to always be something going on in the kitchen, and the centerpiece of all the action was always the kitchen table.
When the girls had homework, they almost always sat down at the old oak table that sat in the center of the room. Even though they both had desks in their bedrooms, they seemed to be more comfortable at the table. It was almost always certain that if they did their homework in the kitchen they would end up getting it done sooner and everything being correct on their papers. It was like they were more at ease in the there. And so it became a tradition for them to bring their work to the table while I was washing the evening dishes.
It seemed that the kitchen was always on call throughout the day with friends and family members seeming to just find their way in and take a seat. In the mornings the kitchen was filled with chatter of the girls planning their school day. After they left for school it was then time for my next-door neighbors, Bonnie and Nancy, to pay their morning call to the old table. I can remember us just sitting there drinking coffee and munching on muffins or some other kind of goodie that had just seemed to pop out of the oven.
The next adventure that almost always engulfed the kitchen was the mid-afternoon visit by my then mother-in-law, Mary, or one of several friends, if not all of them at one time. There was always someone there sitting around the table. Of course there was always the smell of fresh coffee, cake or some type of food.
"This is the best place I know of to just sit and enjoy myself," I heard almost every day by one or the other of my guests.
It was as though my kitchen was the neighborhood meeting place, and there were times when I would think; if I charged admission, I would be rich ten times over; but there was no price that could be put on such closeness and such comfort that my small country kitchen seemed to provide to its welcomed guests.
Late afternoon when it was time to prepare diner, that small kitchen table became a cutting board along with a resting place for all the prepared food. It was as though it was the safest place for my carefully prepared meals. A couple of hours later, we would all pile around that table and eat our diner as we discussed our day.
"I am going out for cheerleader." I made an A on my math test today." Our class is going to Dollywood next week." Can I please have a sleep over next weekend?" I can still hear the echoes of my daughters' questions and statements that were made around that kitchen table throughout the years.
In the evenings after the girls had retired to their nightly slumber, I would use that same kitchen table to spread my crafts out and begin working on pieces that would either be sold at the local consignment shop or pieces that would become treasured gifts for those same friends that enjoyed that kitchen table so much.
Many times I would sit there late at night with, yes, my last cup of coffee of the day, and just recall the fun that we had there earlier that day. There was always some memory that either brought a smile to my face or a tear to my eyes. I could close my eyes and hear the echoes of the words that had been said around the kitchen table that day. "Do you think my mother is being unfair?" The young girl down the street had asked, sitting right across from where I was now sitting.
"I would like to paint my living room blue, but I don't know if I would like it." A dear friend had said earlier while sipping coffee in the same seat where I was now sitting.
"I need to cut my grass tomorrow." I could almost hear my mother-in-law, Mary, repeat as I sat there in the stillness of that daily busy kitchen.
"Mom, please hand me the mashed potatoes." One of the girls had said many times while sitting right here at this same table.
It seemed that every activity was centered around the kitchen table back then. I can even remember when my oldest daughter had a Home Economics project and the table became absolutely covered with flour or some other substance that took and act of congress to clean up.
There were even times when we would relax and play UNO or some other game right there around that kitchen table. Of course, there was always that smell of something fresh in the oven or the aroma of popcorn in the air during these special family gatherings.
Not only were the good times shared at the kitchen table, but the hard times and worries were just as much a part of that meeting place. The Times when I had a problem, I would take refuge in just sitting alone at that table in the late hours of the night. It seemed to be the most comforting place to just think things over. Perhaps the memories of all the fun made the worries and problems just seem to disappear. I can't even count the many problems and situations that were solved right there around the kitchen table.
When I became a newly divorced mother and returned to college, I found great strength in doing my own homework at that same kitchen table. I guess it was then that I realized how the girls had felt about doing their own homework there instead of in their rooms. It was almost always at that table where I studied for every test and final exam.
Several years have passed since we moved from that small camp house with its country kitchen. The girls are now grown with families of their own and I have found myself with a new life as well. I am now remarried and the mother of yet another little girl. We still have special family moments and cherished times together, but somehow they are no longer centered around our kitchen table. Of course, that old oak table has long since been gone from our lives. I sold it and bought a new one right before I moved from the little camp house. Somehow I must have thought that it had served its purpose and that it was time for a new version. Perhaps I just wanted something more modern. Whatever the reason, that table is gone now and I sometimes find myself missing it more that I ever thought I would.
Now when the girls visit, it seems that all our conversations are now centered around the patio table. For some reason the kitchen table that we now have is just not as comfortable as the old oak table that once was our refuge from the world outside. I sometimes wonder if the girls feel the same. I have not dared to ask either of them about the memories that we shared all those years around the table. I suppose I am afraid of what their answer might be. Someday I may be able to find the right words to bring the subject up to them, but for now I am content with just remembering those special times.
You can still smell the aroma of fresh brewed coffee or some type of goodie from the oven when you enter our home, but no matter how I try I just can't seem to recapture that old familiar feeling of comfort that was created around that old kitchen table. Even though I have a great life and am very secure in my marriage and I probably have almost anything I could want or need, I still sometimes have that longing of finding that security that was wrapped up in that old table.
Through the past few years I have come to realize that it wasn't just the conversations, the fun we shared, the time spent together, or even that feeling of comfort that is missing. Because we all still share that same bonding and fun as much as we ever did. The new memories that I have created with my new husband and daughter are as special as any that I ever shared with my first two daughters or any of my friends. No it isn't the lack of closeness or happiness that I really miss, it is perhaps more along the lines of the love of that old table. It is the memory of the comfort of the table itself that I miss the most.
Oftentimes, we take such small things for granted to the point that we don't miss them until they are gone. Although I love the look of my new table and the way it blends with my decor, I hope someday to find a table that brings such warmth and comfort into our home as that old oak table did for so many years.
The next table that I pick out I am certainly going to take in account
that every moment should be shared "around the kitchen table."
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