I just did a search on Pinterest for kitchen tables. No shortage of images here – everything from rustic worn farmhouse tables (totally ‘in’ right now) to elegantly decorated masterpieces (seasonally appropriate, of course) to instructions on how to paint, build, refurbish, or repurpose them as flowerbeds or doormats – well, maybe not those last two, but you know Pinterest – it’s not impossible.
NOT ONE of these images included any people at the tables. I found that profoundly interesting.
I have recently had two very un-Pinterest-Perfect experiences with kitchen tables.
The first involved a well-used oval oak pedestal table with a veneer top badly in need of refinishing but easily disguised with placemats. There were people at this table – five adults besides myself, empty-nesters realizing that the Freedom 55 thing was never more than an ad gimmick. There was food, too – a potluck-style prime rib dinner. And candles.
The second involved a large rectangular table, quite new, with white cushioned chairs. It was a table worthy of Pinterest for sure, except for the fact that it also had people around it, munching on mozzarella poppers (with or without jalapeño) and pretzel chips- five adults besides myself, ex-teens realizing that the adulting ‘thing’ is actually harder than it looked. No candles.
Other than the food, which is quite common at most tables, there were other things being served at both of these tables: memories and ‘catch-ups,’ laughter and possible puns, comfortable conversations flowing from shared pasts now reclaimed to fortify the present. Interspersed with and undergirding all of the light-hearted camaraderie were the real reasons why these kitchen-table scenarios were beyond Pinterest-worthy of recognition.
At each table, every single person regardless of age, occupation, gender or hair-colour, brought something more: heaping containers of grief and confusion next to the pretzels, various bowls laden with hurt and discouragement surrounding the jar of sour cream for the baked potatoes. This is where the real feasts took place – not to gorge on the bitterness of these dishes, but to come together and season them liberally with honesty and genuine listening and caring and loving and fresh insights and perspectives, so that when we finally step away from the table a sweetness lingers long and deep. That the conversations spill over with tears or overflow into the living rooms only enhances the feast.
May they continue to spill and overflow into our lives – those spaces we literally and figuratively inhabit each day.
May we reclaim our kitchen tables for this kind of open, honest, searching, burden-sharing, praying-caring feasting that nourishes lives that are too often starving for purpose and clarity and hope.
May we sit around our tables and truly see and hear one another above the noise of daily living, the lies of depression and loneliness, the aching of loss and discouragement.
May we unapologetically fill our tables with the messiness of life because we care more about each other than some ideal of perfection; we are doing life together and Pinterest Fail episodes come with the territory. We’re okay with that.
May our tables become places where grace is lived, extended, and embraced, not just said before a meal.
Let’s reclaim our kitchen tables for conversations that truly matter.