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

BY JOY HARJO

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.

Well-Intentioned Poster Child

A circa 1880’s poster with a picture of a can-can dancer in the midst of a high kick hung above my white-canopied bed, on the green checked wallpapered walls of my girlhood bedroom. Every night, in the hours spent dreaming, these words hung over my head:

Come See
Karen Suzanne
Can-Can Dancer Extraordinaire
She Dances, Recites Poetry, Tells Jokes
She does it all!
Bucket O’Blood Saloon
Virginia City, Nevada

I’m Karen Suzanne. I basically became a can-can dancer, an actress, and a writer of poetry and slightly amusing anecdotes.

On the walls of Palmer Chinchen’s childhood house in Africa was a tapestry of the last supper.

Palmer became a pastor.

My husband’s boyhood bedroom walls were covered in all things Star Wars.

While my husband resembles Mark Hammil, remains jealous of Harrison Ford, and still gets a little disoriented when you mention Carrie Fisher and gold bikini in the same sentence, that’s where the imprint ends. He does kind of look like Mark Hammil though…

In my oldest daughter Hannah’s room hangs a painting of stripes in various lengths and colors with the words “Be Original” along the bottom, a poster of 12 distinctly different cupcakes, a few monkey posters and an autographed poster of the Rockettes. Oh, on the wall opposite her bed, so the last view she sees at night and the first thing she sees in the morning is a mural I painted on her wall of a castle high in a cloud with the words Once Upon A Time…

Hannah wants to be Cinderella. She is hoping to attend Chapman University when she graduates, partly because it’s a 10 minute train ride to Disneyland. Where she could get a job as Cinderella. (Ultimately, she wants to be an occupational therapist…and a Rockette.)

Talia, my youngest daughter has the word hope in various sizes, shapes and forms all over her room. Her middle name is Hope. Hanging directly above her head board is a mirror that is surrounded with pictures of her friends, the little pictures that you take in photo booths. Not one of them is serious.

Talia wants to be a neuro-biologist and a photographer, but after she is married and has 3 kids. It’s not incredibly likely that one of the kids will be serious.

On the top of the mirror in their bathroom is a quote by Ghandi “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I’m not sure they’ve ever seen it. They’re teenage girls… their focus is on who is staring back at them. As it should be at this point. But, I have hope that one day they will look up.

When I was preparing their nursery, I agonized over paint swatch colors for weeks. I asked anyone who seemed to have a reasonable handle on humanity what color meant in the years spent forming an individual. I sincerely wanted a color that would be both soothing and stimulating and would help guarantee the inhabitant of the room acceptance into Julliard. The last person I asked for input replied “I think you’re asking too much of a color.”

I settled on a kind of blue/gray with a classic Winnie the Pooh wallpaper border. Pretty much the room became the hundred acre woods of Christopher Robin’s (and my) imagination. So far, my girls alternately resemble Tigger and Eeyore with the occasional Rabbit thrown in during finals.

It seems to be critical what we hang on the walls of our homes, what we surround our children with during times of innocence and rest. I’m pretty sure my parents just thought that can-can dancer poster was funny. I loved it. For about 12 years it hung right over my head every night as I drifted to sleep. If my parents had hung a tapestry of the last supper over my head would I be closer to God? A pastor?

Can these seemingly innocent acts form the course of our destiny?

If Palmer had had a can-can dancer poster in his home growing up would he be throwing in a high kick every once in a while?

If my husband hadn’t seen Star Wars…well, I don’t have a comparison here…

It’s too soon to know the lives my children will lead. I hope Hannah is original and sweet and creative and delighted with small creatures, just like Cinderella. She actually is already. I hope the best things happen to her before midnight. I hope Talia never loses her hope to be – my hope, the hope of her generation. She has the capability. And the humor.

I guess as parents we are just doing whatever we can to not only keep our children alive, but guide them into the lives we hope they will lead. And maybe all the kids have to do is survive through our preconceived notions as to what will make a difference beyond survival.

Just to be clear, Julliard is off the table.