At a Kitchen Table

November 23, 2012

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
— “Perhaps the World Ends Here”
Joy Harjo, b. 1951
American poet

I had Thanksgiving dinner at someone else’s table, and I traveled there alone this time, at Ron’s insistence, because his continuing photosensitivity combined with his Miniere’s syndrome (an inner ear problem) made the two-hour trip too difficult. On the way I stopped at a Turkey Hill staffed by the three most cheerful convenience store clerks I’ve ever met. I used the bathroom and bought a bottle of Sobe Fuji apple pear water, the drink of the gods since I swore off Diet Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda. Just before I had to turn left into my hosts’ neighborhood, I nearly hit some chickens that were considering crossing the road. Their purpose was unclear. My GPS was excited to tell me that we were “arriving at destination, on left!” but this year I knew it was three houses too early. I did, however, slow and peer down the driveway of the place we sauntered in to last year, to see if that family was using the gas-fired outdoor turkey oven again. And I briefly considered stopping in to say hello. (Last year, Ron had handed over the pie we brought before we realized we were at the wrong house.) I returned home with a plate of turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, and two desserts, for the one who could not be with us. “We make men at [the table], we make women at it,” the poet writes. The table I sat at today produced three fine young men, among them my future son-in-law Matt April. Even considering the absence of the father of the bride-to-be, it was a good day.

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