My husband shared a story that was told to the congregation at a Catholic mass. The Priest spoke of two boys who had been friends throughout childhood and into their teens. They were good boys but one day something went very wrong and the boys vandalized a local shopfront. Police were called. Both boys were hauled to the station and phone calls were made.
The father of one of the boys went to the station and spoke with the Police and his son. He made arrangements for his son to apologize to the store owner and worked out how his son would pay for the damages. The Police were unable to contact the parents of the other boy.
The son was embarrassed and wanted to leave the Police Station as quickly as possible but his father said they would wait until his friend’s parents arrived. Time passed. Eventually a Police Officer asked the father if he could take the boy as they had not been able to reach the parents and several hours had now passed. Immediately the father agreed and he left with both boys.
Later when the father and his son spoke, the son asked his father why they had to stay at the Police Station for so long when they could have left much sooner. The son was upset that he was made to stay there so long and that so many people had seen him. The father explained that they could not leave his friend. His words to his son were simple – he is at our table, we do not leave him behind.
At our table – the place where we gather with family and friends. At our table – the place where our loved ones bring those who are special to them. Our tables are where we share food, drink and conversation. Where celebrations are held and memories made. Our tables may be in our homes or at our parks, laid across our towels on a sandy beach or at the gathering around the tray of a ute. What ever form our tables take, it is where talking, sharing and listening forges relationships. It is where ideas emerge and stories are shared. At our tables we learn, we experience, we bond, we connect and like the Father, we should strive not to leave those at our table behind.
The light from our lake was particularly soft and beautiful tonight. I sent a picture of it to our adult kids who live across closed borders in this time of COVID and messaged them that I wished they were here tonight, for dinner. I do enjoy cooking lovely food for them but it is the magic of gathering in one place, of sharing laughter and teasing, jokes and stories, memories, achievements and disappointments – the cementing of ties with those who have come to our table.
We’ve had many tables. The first one – a veneer table for six, rented from the Army in a house which was called ‘a married quarter’ whereas newly weds living hundreds of miles from both our families, we gathered with other young friends, soldiers and university students. We played loud music and argued about Irish politics. We debated everything and thought we knew it all! All who came to our table were served care and attention. They always felt welcomed. Many have faded away on geographical winds into new seasons at different tables but some remain connected and present in our life.
The table which stands in our family home is the first piece of furniture that we bought together. Found in the industrial parts of Townsville where antique wares were fashion and stunning silky oak furniture could never have imagined that one day they would be swathed in coats of trendy chalk paint. Made of black oak, our table and side board have travelled from posting to posting, with a couple of stints in storage during posts to America and the Middle East. At our table we have spent time with all of our family, parents now passed, siblings and their children. Best mates have enjoyed formal food whilst dressed in pajamas. It is the place where eyes meet, minds open and hearts are helped to heal.
Our family grew and so did our tables. We found ourselves in fancier ‘married quarters’ where family rooms and casual tables beside the kitchen continued to provide a space for messy, spilling, floor dropping family meals. Candles were blown over cupcakes, mermaid cakes and iced footy fields year after year – as three under five became three over twenty-five! At our table was noisy, sticky and guaranteed to be welcoming. The most special ones – those spent with our loved ones, what ever the occasion or not. Time spent together is occasion enough.
Although, there have been some crazy and overly spectacular tables. One a gathering of twenty-two really good friends where furniture was moved and trestles brought in to be covered and decorated so we that could all be gathered together to eat, talk and enjoy a long night which went on into the early hours of a freezing Victorian morning. A stunning grazing table in the United States where Generals and the odd Ambassador wanted to grab a selfie! Car tables at tail gate parties with new mates – it is more than spectacular to share the good times and friendship that comes from being at the table. Back yard barbies, picnics, stand up affairs in our kitchen, fire pit nibbles, sunset toasts – our precious time to lay aside the phones, social media and plug into the warmth of real connection.
Beautiful as they can be – at our table does not rely on lovely wood, polished silverware and matching china. I love that we have a gorgeous big place to sit out by the lake to gather, to meet, to catch up, to welcome and to connect. That feeling, the strengthening of ties and relationships does not require a fancy table. On this beautiful night as we miss our kids and their beautiful partners, it is their precious essence that we yearn for.
So we are reminded to make time whenever possible to gather around our tables. To mix wisely and gently with those whom we invite to our table. Time and connection are the most precious gifts we can bestow to those at our table.