At the Children’s Table

November 1st, 2012

This time of year, I think of Thanksgivings gone, especially the annual feasts at my grandmother’s house in Kentucky. The long maghogany dining table would be covered with a lace cloth, linen napkins, the Havilland china brought out, the heavy Gorham silverware, the crystal water goblets. We didn’t have money, but those were things that had been handed down for several generations and they were used for Sunday dinners and holidays as a matter of course. At one time, we had a huge sprawling family, so that meant there was always a children’s table in the corner of the dining room. It was a small, white-painted wooden one and usually held four of us — me, my brothers and my cousin. I loved the comfort of being tucked in a corner — it was like lying in bed at night and hearing the adults laughing and chatting in the next room — but after a certain point, I couldn’t wait until I graduated to the grown-ups’ table and finally understood those overheard bits of gossip and stories that floated down to ¬†us. None of it made complete sense — I was always operating on incomplete information and nuances I couldn’t quite catch. There were undercurrents to the adult world that I simply couldn’t understand, but I was desperate to learn the rules. Eventually I learned that all was not well at the big table: marriages were unraveling, infidelity was a subtext and divorces were lying in wait for many of my grownups. I’m still caught, though, between longing to fit into an adult world where all the rules are clear, and wishing I could return to the children’s table where my ears were still stoppered against the many ways we can hurt each other in this world.

One Response to “At the Children’s Table”

  1. Yes, “knowledge of good and evil” that comes with maturity is the burden of being a grown up. I remember the years when I protected my kids from the world and then the steps I took to introduce them to its realities so they would be able to cope on their own…Now, we’re all in together, for better or worse.

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