According to an article by Melinda Fakuade, What is the dining room table really for?, dining rooms are a thing of the past. And a quick search on Craig’s List shows how many folks are trying to sell the tables they don’t use.
This makes me sad. It’s not the demise of the dining room that bothers me. Any room that isn’t used regularly is a waste of space and drains us energetically. It’s the living in that makes our houses homes.
Ah, but the dining table — that is different. Dining tables are more than surfaces for eating. They are vessels for living.
As silent housemates, they ask for nothing, and exist only to serve. Here, let me hold your plate and your coffee. Sit beside me and talk. Play a game. Work. Strategize. Put your head on me and cry. Bang your fist. Make plans. Strategize. Write. Solve problems. Create. Deal cards. Visit. Spill your wine? I’ll catch it. Beside me, you will be nourished. Come, fold your hands over me. Eat.
Dining tables hold us together as families. They support all our activities – essential, important, creative, even trivial. And, by extension, they support our souls.
Some of the best moments of my life—and my very favorite memories—happened around dining tables.
Celebrating birthdays. Playing board games. Creating jewelry, making collages, and dabbling in other crafts. Even the childhood memory of my father jabbing my elbow with a fork when it appeared while we were eating is funny. It was always shocking then, but it was a great lesson for me!
Dinners at noon on Grandma’s farm with six to ten kids. Passing bowls of food and being scolded for reaching. Deboning bluegills and sunfish. Watching Grandma eat watermelon with salt and a fork. Drinking tea out of china cups and eating wafer cookies. Buttering toast and wiping up the crumbs. Playing endless games of Rummy.
My mother’s dining room table, after my parents divorced is where we would talk about school, friends, and even her job. Where we ate baked potatoes and corn made in the new microwave. Where we laid out the Christmas cookies before and after baking.
It was around my father and stepmom’s large dining table that my father hosted wine tastings. And where I learned that the secret to hospitality is as simple as the willingness to make room. Clear the clutter and sit down. There is always enough food.
The first thing I purchased for myself when I moved to Idaho was an antique round pedestal oak table that extended to an oval. Every Easter, I spread it open and friends gathered for a large meal and hours of laughter. It was my favorite day of the year. “Spring Thanksgiving,” as it came to be known.
I’ve always loved dinner parties. Eating with others is important to me. Shared food and conversation. Meals made with intention. Restaurants and coffee shops offer too many distractions. But a meal in my home, or that of a friend’s, provides genuine connection.
Today, my dining room table is an old oak square with a wobbly leg and sides that fold down. The three chairs for guests now sit against the windows. In this time of Covid, I’m not sure when I’ll entertain friends again. But someday, possibly.
At the moment, this dining table doubles as my desk. Where I eat breakfast and lunch, where I write, where I Zoom. Papers sit in piles and pens are always falling on the floor. But in a corner, I keep a vase of fresh flowers.
I recently considered purchasing a real desk, something more appropriate for working at home. But I can’t do it. Call it feng shui, nostalgia, or sentimentality. This table anchors me to place.
Dining tables are a symbol of possibility, of community, and a way of living that is deeply nourishing. Whether in a kitchen, on a porch, or in their own special room, dining tables do more than double duty in the myriad of ways we use them. For work, for crafts, for playing, and for eating. Even when we are alone, these tables bring us together.
Take away the dining room but keep a table for dining. Use it any way you need. Underneath the clutter, these tables are a reservoir of memories, support, nourishment, and possibility.
I’m not giving up mine any time soon.
What about you?