Life is Like a Dining Room Table

Life - waiting to happen
Life – waiting to happen

I freely admit I’m no Forrest Gump, but I must say that dragging a solid oak table and ten chairs in and out of the house a few times makes me think. And once you get a writer thinking – look out – an analogy is on the way.

When reflecting on uses of this table, it occurred to me that our daily life and the seasons of our life can be seen in the variety known by our dining room tables.

Daily Life Reflections

Unlike many families in our eat-and-run culture, I ate dinner at the dining room (or kitchen) table. When we were kids, my sister and I also wolfed down our Captain Crunch and Apple Jacks at the kitchen table before walking to the bus stop.

A dining room table is a place for family togetherness. In our home, dinnertime serves as a moment for the four (or three or even two) of us to sit together and discuss daily events.

“How was your day?” The dining room table might reply, “I sat in a dark room staring out the front window. It was lonely until the cat came and scratched one of my chair legs and then curled up on a seat for a nap.” Have you had such a day?

“What did you learn at school today?” “What happened in your world today?” “Are we having chicken again?” It might not be a deep, philosophical exchange but it keeps us in touch with each other.

If you’re like my family, the dining room table is in the dining room and gets used for everything except mealtime. That’s a statement about our daily life, too. What we expect occasionally happens, but most of the time we live in the flux of the unexpected.

Our dining room table:

  • Collects an assortment of junk – mail, books, games and a quick look at my recent garage sale woes reminds you our life resembles this
  • Can be about fun and games – this is where the two, four or more of us gather with cards, Apples to Apples, Monopoly, etc. – life has some fun times, too
  • Invites friends and family to sit and stay awhile – have you ever noticed how everyone lingers even after the food is gone? Some moments of life should be savored
  • Can be covered or bare – some occasions merit a formal tablecloth, while others are happy to see the oak finish. Depending on where we are and who is around us, we might choose to cover our hurts or expose them

Seasonal Comparisons

Needing refinishing: When the boys were little, we had a booster chair that you hung off the side of the table. Needless to say, bowls, spoons and cups became drumsticks on the drum of the tabletop. It didn’t take long until the varnish peeled away.

When our kids are little, time is an elusive imp. There are never enough hours in a day to accomplish our to-do list, not if we want to sleep anyway. This season of life stretched like eternity when I was in it.

Using all the leaves: Whether for birthday parties, game days, dinners, or a hang-out for the neighborhood kids, we needed a table with more than one expansion. This was a joy to me because I wanted to know who my boys hung out with.

This season stretched, like the table with all the leaves inserted, through all the school years. It meant extra trips to the grocery store and a house more cluttered than clean, but it kept the mama table content.

Adding more chairs: Even as our kids aged, we needed more chairs at the dinner table and for holiday dinners. Friends from college or old high school buddies spent time around the table – mostly for D and D or LAN parties. Good thing we had those ten chairs.

Inevitable fact of life: kids grow up. They go to college and move away. They find a special someone to join with, starting the seasons anew. Our table has yet to see brides for our handsome princes, but both of them have serious attachments and those girls have a place at our table.

Storing the leaves: If you pull this beautiful oak table all the way open, there’s room to store one of the heavy leaves. The other one generally leans against the wall in the entry closet. They’re close at hand, ready to host a gathering of family or friends, but most of the time, a more intimate arrangement prevails.

I’ve spent a few posts mourning and delighting in this phase of empty nesting. I’m reminded anew that even though that table is solid oak, it requires attention to stay beautiful. The same can be said for marriage.

Too often we focus our time and energy on the children and our spouse becomes that stranger in the bed beside us. If that’s the case, the close quarters brought on when the table size is reduced can feel uncomfortable.

What sort of dining room table are you sitting at? Think of a benefit for your current stage, it will be gone soon enough (unless you’re an empty nester – we hope that one stretches for another 40 years).

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.