À table (pronounced without the e) is French for “at the table.” It’s often heard when a meal is ready and everyone is being called to the table like “come and get it.”
But I’ve been wanting to write a series of some tables that are very dear to my heart.
The first being, my husband’s kitchen table. He grew up at this table. This is a table of connection, of family, of time spent. I love this table. I’m emotional as I write this…
Each morning for this table is the same.
My mother in law, Isabelle lays down a tablecloth, then with care sets out coffee mugs, juice glasses, butter, jams, knives, and spoons. She also sets out cloth napkins that she’s ironed and folded just so. She also remembers who’s been using each color. They don’t get washed after every meal they are set back in the drawer and then taken out again for each meal until one becomes too dirty.
This takes place while my father in law scurries the two blocks to the nearest boulangerie (bakery) where he’ll take a whole grain baguette and a skinny white baguette perfect for making tartines. Which is simply a name for a baguette sliced down the middle and topped with butter, jam, Nutella, etc. My brother in law, Julien, likes to dip his in the hot chocolate that he has instead of coffee. Sometimes like the other day, Julien, and I went to pick out some fresh croissants and pain au chocolat.
We come down the steps disheveled to “Bonjour,” double cheek kisses, and the same question every morning “Tu as bien dormir?” – Did you have a nice sleep?
We sit down, we joke, we laugh, we plan the day’s events, little details are fretted about. Things that I’ve sometimes thought “seems like an awful lot of conversation over how exactly we’re going to arrange the car-seats.”
We talk about the freshness of the bread, which flavor the jam is, tease someone who reaches for more. Juice is offered, things are passed, bread is cut. Very often the same things are said or done each morning. And these same conversations have been taking place since Alex was a child. I love being a part of it now. I get teased as I snap photos of what seems to them the most ordinary thing in the world.
By nature, I’m a messy and disorganized person. But, I’m always trying to reform myself so I love to see such structure and rhythm. I look for things I can incorporate into our daily family life. I’d love to be able to give my children that same reliable routine each day. I’m not there yet but it’s a goal I’m always working towards.
I try to recreate the way their table works. It’s so accessible and close to all that is needed. It takes very little effort to grab some milk from the fridge or ask someone to grab you a spoon. Isabelle makes sure everything is just so. I also love the way they clean up. It’s one of their family rituals to discuss and joke about who’s going to ramasser (to pick up). We most often do it together. There is a very deliberate way that you clean up in my in-laws home. I remember my first few times at that table over a decade ago watching how plates were scrapped first, then stacked, then loaded into the dishwasher with each step being executed in a particular way.
I chuckle to myself when the time comes that the dishwasher is almost full. Each member of the family practically races to solve the puzzle. So proud when they find a glass or bowl that can be moved to make more room for the rest. Arguing over which cup someone else would have moved had they gotten there first. I’ve witnessed this and other tiny rituals that surround their kitchen table hundreds of times. It’s part of their family.They enjoy it. There are little roles and duties and it’s easy to plug into one and be useful. I like the simplicity that allows me to be helpful.
But unfortunately, I’ll never witness any of this again. Alex’s parents are selling their home. It’s been very emotional for me. I have so many cherished memories in that home. As I walked down the hallway to the bathroom in the middle of the night for the last time I relived the emotions that the same walk has held before. I was dumb and naive enough to travel to France when I was 35 weeks pregnant with our first child for Alex’s best friend’s wedding. I had cleared everything with my doctor and she felt it was not a problem since I fly for a living.
I went to the bathroom after a long day and discovered I had started to bleed. I’ll never forget the feelings I felt sitting on that toilet. Not wanting to believe it was happening. Wanting to put off waking Alex and making it real. I was rushed in an ambulance in the middle of the night to the hospital where the cause of the bleeding was unable to be determined but all signs pointed to pre-term labor. It’s a long story and includes me having contractions all the way through ticketing, security, and boarding a plane from Paris to Seattle. I’ve never prayed and trusted my intuition so much in my life. When I thought back to that younger self the other night I found myself just sending love and assurance that everything’s going to turn out 10,000’s better than you can even imagine little mama. I try and tell myself that going forward.
I’ll miss that palace of memories but, just like my childhood home, my grandparents home in Pennsylvania, and other spots that have meant so much to me I know I can always visit in my mind.
I know there will be many more wonderful moments made and many more experiences endured but, I can’t help but be sad and nostalgic for the past sometimes. I’ll never be able to relive my children’s births, different adventures, moments that only a certain time and person even know about. I think this is why I’m so passionate about writing out my thoughts, taking video, and just holding special moments for a second longer in gratitude. It helps relieve the anxiety and melancholy I sometimes feel as I watch time pass.
I’ll always remember the emotions at that table, that home, and all the things I’ve learned there. I hope my children and their spouses will feel the same someday about the table in our home.
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