Tip #190: Gather around a table.
It’s been a noticeably dark December. Not in the doom and gloom kind of way—though to be sure, there’s plenty of that to be found in the world outside of this tiny apartment—but in the way where it’s felt like the sun has just given up on fully rising. Our windowpanes have been fogged up and splattered with rain more often than I can count. Every evening after school Silas comes home aghast that the sky has darkened outside the window and that it’s not yet dinnertime. Every morning he wakes up before daybreak to wonder aloud if it’s time for breakfast or “still time for sleeping.” (Our feelings on the answer to this question differ.)
It’s no wonder that we do so much gathering together in this time of year; so much sharing of meals and sweets, so much lighting of candles and twinkle lights. We need light and we need each other, in December maybe most of all.
Just before Thanksgiving, a new table wended its way into this tiny Brooklyn apartment. You might recall that for the past year or so we’ve been using two smaller tables pushed together to form one larger one. The combined tables gave us the space we needed, but the abundance of table legs and the tendency for our kids to inadvertently (or quite on purpose) push the tables apart during a meal was tiresome. (RIP faithful water glasses and sanity.)
Last year, Michaele and Johannes of Kalon Studios reached out to see if they might be able to offer our family the gift of a table that better suited our needs. As I’m wont to do, I waffled and wavered. But they helped me to decide on a size that would be right for our family and our apartment and our four old chairs. I measured and measured again and played around with different configurations of furniture plus masking tape to try to envision what was both possible for this space and nimble enough to move with us should that time come.
The best way to go about these things, as I’ve said so often before, is slowly. To suss out what will be helpful and what will last. The furniture-making itself is a slow and careful craft, too. There’s the lumber to mill and the craftspeople to enlist. From design to built object there’s a world of decision making and materials sourcing and honing that needs to be done.
On the night the table arrived, I’d made lentils with turmeric. On the day after it arrived, we hosted my sister and her family for pizza and salad and requisite red wine. It takes some confidence and a bit of faith to allow your young children and boisterous family to splatter turmeric broth and pizza sauce atop a newly arrived American ash table, but Michaele and Johannes had assured me the table could weather the storms of a young family and it has.
There’s a lot of small space advice that questions the value of a large table in a home with limited square footage. I respect the choice against a large table, but I don’t agree with it. For me, there’s something so special and sacred about having a solid surface to gather around. As much as the food that’s served there, the table itself becomes a place of nourishment. I’m not sure I’ve ever sat down at a table without also breathing a sigh of relief. Have you? Dinnertime around the table is the moment in my day when I can most clearly see my kids and their sweet, concentrated faces either dutifully eating their dinner or else ignoring it altogether in favor of telling elaborate stories from their days at school.
Our table is our family’s daily gathering spot. It’s the place where we share groggy cups of coffee, it’s where I work all day, where Faye comes home from school and practices her writing, where Silas sits, under a single light in the dark hours of pre-coffee mornings to eat his oatmeal with brown ‘gugar. Next week, we’ll be spending Christmas morning in our own tiny apartment for the third year in a row and so soon it will be the place where I serve a warm loaf of Cranberry bread, and James pours cups of Christmas morning coffee, and our kids eat chocolate before 8 am. We need these kinds of gathering places, I think, in spaces large and small.
As ever, I’m curious: Does your family sit around a table together everyday, or is your gathering spot someplace different?