The Neighborhood Table

Kindness tip for the week:

He's the Man!

It’s okay to ask for help.

Allowing help gives a chance to shorten the distance between loneliness and a life shared.

A few Christmases ago I asked for a new kitchen table, the current “table” was about to disband into dust. The Husband, Keith, found a very cute table and chairs at Wal-Mart online. It was delivered with “some assembly required” about a week before Christmas to our neighbor Jeff’s house.

We have the family Christmas Eve dinner at our house. The four ‘fancy’ plates we got for our wedding come out to play for this night because there is never a worthy occasion to use them. Since we only have the four, it takes awhile to make the table look like it was arranged with a plan in mind. I spend about an hour, choosing the tablecloth and napkins, setting the table, arranging the seating and centerpiece until we can all fit, if we keep our elbows in, and I’m reasonably happy it looks magical. After baking and cooking all morning/month I thankfully disappear to finish wrapping presents behind closed doors while something cooks slowly in the oven. Egg Nog may, or may not, be invited in. Every year this is my schedule. Every. Single. Year.

This particular Christmas Eve, as soon as I closed our bedroom door to tackle speed wrapping, a silent mayhem began in the kitchen. The Youngest,Talia, having memorized exactly how the table was set, took everything off as quickly and quietly as she could, The Husband and The Oldest, Hannah, immediately sent four texts to neighbors who were on stand by to help assemble the table and chairs, run them to our house, silently set them up in our kitchen, dispose of the old table and chairs while The Youngest perfectly reset the new table to look exactly like the old one as fast as was safe.

I heard nothing.

The crew all excitedly waited in the kitchen for me to come out. Two hours later, I did. By that time, the neighbors had left and everyone else was annoyed with me. I didn’t notice the new table for way too long, even with all the beaming faces glaring at me. Since everything looked exactly like how I left it…no need to comment.

Finally, The Youngest sarcastically bellowed, “NOTICE ANYTHING DIFFERENT IN THE KITCHEN??” I looked quickly around from my perch in front of the sink, “Ohhhhh! New chairs!” This was met with a simultaneous group sigh. If I just hadn’t gone with a tablecloth that year, I would have seen the new table and we would hardly remember this even happened.

The whole Christmas Eve shenanigan uprising is priceless to me; the new table that wasn’t crumbling down, the group effort with their commitment to sneakery (should be a word), The Husband who had the thought and generosity to pull this off, the family that is sheltered at this table. Buying anything large at that point in time was a huge committment, even though we needed it, we still were anxious about the choice. It was a screamin’ deal though.  My husband propped up a poem he found in the middle of the table. I still can’t read it without tearing up. (You can read it below.) The words in this beautiful piece, gave our lives purpose and comfort that a table is a worthy investment.

This gift was way more than a new table from Wal-Mart. It was a step back to barn-raising’s and a step forward to neighbors taking care of their own in times of flooding and fires and shootings and innocent Christmas magic.

We can never get rid of this table.

Try to love your time with your family this week and with all of those who have landed near you. In my experience, time together as a family went faster than I could fathom. Well, on most days, some days time actually went slower than originally fathomed.

Do you have a story? Please share it! Everywhere! A positive story can change the course of any day.

The poem that was placed on my magical Christmas table:

Perhaps the World Ends Here


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.

Where we learn to be human. And the fancy plate is the first one on the right. 🙂
“Perhaps the World Ends Here” from The Woman Who Fell From the Sky by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 1994 by Joy Harjo.

The Down Side of Raising Kids You Like

Everything was all well and good until I was taking down the Christmas decorations yesterday.

I have been in a blissful, protective state of denial. Denial, which gets an undeserved bad rap, allows us to move ahead in the face of certain pain or imminent failure and go confidently in the direction of our dreams. Without denial, no one would get up in the morning. Or is that hope? Maybe I’m confusing denial with hope. Whatever.

Okay, so I may have been denying the certainty that life changes. It’s a protective skill. I’m an expert. I believe my children are still little and will not be graduating from high school in the next nano second when I hang what are now 15-year-old hand made Christmas ornaments on an over-loaded Christmas tree, and shop for pajamas to open on Christmas Eve and purchase what seems to be hundreds of presents for the 12 family members staying for Christmas while baking bread and sweet potatoes and ham and mailing family photo Christmas cards that were as funny as I could make them.

It’s when the celebration has passed and it’s time to put away the precious childhood ornaments, that the truth shows up in shocking, uncontrollable places to point out that hands have grown bigger and daughters have become full-fledged human beings with lives to lead away from our blissful, protected home.

I really was doing quite well until I took a hand print Christmas paper plate lace trimmed ornament off of the tree and the poem fell off the back. I glued it back on and sobbing unattractively for 2 hours, waited while it dried. In the 200 times I read it before tearing myself away to sloppily hug the child/now laughing teenager who made it, I lived through every sweet moment and every mistake I’ve made as a mother and a human being.

So here, in my awakened terror, I wait for the day she isn’t home when I hang it up and take it down again. There is no fairness in parenting. We blindly take these itsy-bitsy people into our homes and while we unconsciously care for them we learn to love them and become used to their noise and progress and friends and laughter and kisses. And then off they go, leaving us as they found us; blindly going about our lives, but now with a near adult shaped hole right in the middle of our path and taking the sweetness we have become accustomed to with them.

The down side of raising children you like…they leave. I just hope they come back or at least stop by.

My wise brother-in-law gave the best gift to his wife on the day his last daughter left for college. He cleaned the entire house, lit hundreds of candles and had The Grateful Dead playing when his wife walked through the door at the end of the day (well…this is the band he and his wife like). He handed her a glass of wine and said “So, where were we, when we were so rudely interrupted?” They danced for hours.

The possibility of dancing with my husband, uninterrupted for hours, keeps my head above the floor.

And my mind busy enough to survive the certainty that life changes.

Today my hand is small,
but how quickly I will grow.
Just how big and tall
is for only God to know.

So look upon this plaque

hanging on  your wall,
and memories will come back
of me when I was small.

Merry Christmas

I love you!