There is nothing I love more than a full table. Coffee tables, card tables, picnic tables, dinner table, altar tables. Nothing fills my heart with gladness like a table bursting at the seams.
My Nana was the same way in her heyday. She loved a full table, and our coffee table, that too-large round table above, that was hers.
Older than me, and having traveled from Texas to Arkansas when Nana and Grandaddy made the move all those years ago, this table was iconic. For thirty-nine years my grandparents lived in the same house and for all of those years this table sat in the middle of their den. Every grandchild and most of the great-grandchildren, and countless other little children, stood a top of it, carefully walking the circumference like a balance beam, stepping between the edge and the groove, around and around, until some adult took notice and ended the fun.
Many a snack of vanilla wafers (my Grandaddy’s favorite) and Tang were served on that table to those same children when they were little, and later slightly more grown, we would all be scolded to use a coaster under our Dr. Pepper cans while we watched football or Family Feud with Grandaddy, or whatever Praise The Lord show my Nana had on (though generally she watched those in her bedroom.)
While occasionally things would change decor wise in my grandparents house (walls were painted, a sofa was recovered, the televisions got larger,) the coffee table never changed, was never replaced. More babies were born, more preschoolers walked its edges, more teenagers put their feet up on it, and slowly, over time, more varnish rubbed off.
When my grandfather died two autumns ago, and the decision was made to sell the house, I, the eldest grandchild (eldest by only three days, I feel compelled to mention that…) inherited the coffee table. If one of my uncles or my father had wanted it badly I would have happily acquiesced it, but to me, a lover of full tables, this was the one material possession I coveted most from my childhood. The table to me represented all that was good, and solid, warm, and welcoming, familiar and happy, in a childhood and family as messy and imperfect as any other.
Occasionally I toy with painting the table. The stain and tone are not in my typical color pallet, But I know that if I sand it and paint it, the old table will be gone. The worn places from all those little feet, from all those dirty elbows, scuffy shoes, and sweating soda cans, will disappear under a coat of paint and forgotten memories.
And I just don’t think I am ready for that just yet.
Sunday afternoon we had people over for dinner. Soul friends. The kind of friends you don’t see enough, but when you do, oh, it is so good.
I took a picture of our table and noticed how colorful it was. How all the seasons of the liturgical year were represented, and I hummed the little song we used at camp to teach the kids what each color symbolizes…
Purple and Blue for Preparation,
White is for a Celebration.
Green is for the Growing Time,
Red is for Pentecost…
And I realized that these are the very things I love about a full table.
I love the preparation, I love to set the table, plan the meal, fold the napkins, pour the wine. I love anticipating the meal, the conversation, the warmth of being together.
I love the celebration once everyone is gathered around – how good it is to be in each other’s presence, the ways we rejoice in the good and the new with each other. The toast to health, the laughter, and even the tears when things are hard. But still we celebrate – we are together, we are fed, we are together.
I love how the people around my table call me towards growth. I want to be better, kinder, smarter, funnier, gentler, wiser, because of them. I want them to be proud of me. I want to learn from them. I want to gleam whatever grains of wisdom and grace they have to give.
And Pentecost. Oh, the falling of the Holy Spirit. This perhaps is my favorite part of a full table. It is the magic sauce. It is that thing that happens in your heart when you are surrounded by those that love. Love you. Love each other. Love Christ. Love life. Love creation. Love themselves. Love the outcast.
And this is the moment where the varnish begins to wear off. Here is where we will spill, and sweat, and scuff, and lean on. This is how the nicks and grooves, and water rings emerge. This is when the children climb on top and walk the rim, at home and secure in the knowledge that they are loved enough. And this is where I am most at home on the earth.
I am like my Nana. I love a full table. Coffee tables, card tables, picnic tables, dinner table, altar tables. Nothing fills my heart with gladness like a table bursting at the seams – worn varnish, spilled wine, and all.