There is something about “The Table” that keeps drawing us in. Even before we moved to France, we owned a well-loved dining table that came with a leaf to extend it. We didn’t think we’d need a leaf. Just like you don’t think you will need all that laptop storage, your table always ends up being too small. Over five years of rich conversations and countless meals, our table’s ‘antique cherry’ varnish began to fritter away. Numerous times, both of our fathers had pleaded us to restore it to its former glossy-smooth glory. But in our eyes, there was no need. The worn varnish spoke of real life mountain tops and dinner flops. Third Culture friends processing, crowded family dinners and visitors relaxing. Each of those chips told a story we weren’t ready to forget. And each story told around the table challenged us and transformed us, and brought us here.
It was hard to say goodbye to that table. It was there that I crept to, in the wee hours of the still dark Colorado mornings, long before the house awoke. There, that I journaled and dreamt and prayed. There was my preferred cloth padded chair and a favorite spot to write at our table. Later in the day, that space was shared with friends and their small children over playdates and spilled glitter and spilled milk and raw confessions above the sound of wailing children.
Putting that table up for sale was all about the price to ship it across an ocean. It would be foolish to keep it. And thus, our Denver table was the last of our household items to be listed “for sale” the week before we left. Instead of describing the item in the ad, I described the life enjoyed around this table with a photo. Hardly had I posted the ad, a notification popped up in my inbox. The buyer couldn’t have cared less about the price. In her words, there was clearly so much “positive energy” in that table, she needed it immediately. Sure enough, she collected it, right in the middle of our last supper. “Where will we eat now?” the kids worried as we dusted remaining crumbs off and waved goodbye.
We don’t see the table in terms of an object that has good or bad energy. To us, it’s all about the table’s emblems and sharing a meal, to share life. There are all the parallels we see in the Bible about life in the every day act of breaking the bread, and living a lifestyle of thanksgiving. Found at the table, is a marriage of food and faith, filling the empty stomachs and soothing bleary souls. And more symbolism, that we ourselves are still unpacking.
Over the Christmas holidays, we commissioned Tall Mountain’s brother to build us a new table. We’d talked about it for a while. The brief: a large, rustic dining table to be made out of imperfect wood lying around the property. The planks my brother-in-law found were as imperfect as our very lives, with holes and scrapes, concrete splatters and warped grain, all planed together and sawed down to make one majestic piece you can’t stop marveling at.
Hosting 43.5 people from all over the world and all walks of life this past month at our farmhouse kitchen table, we knew my brother in law’s labor wouldn’t be in vain. There were the newlyweds who were figuring out cross-cultural marriage. The family overcoming grief of a loss of a child. Neighbors, invited in for an apero. Parties for the babies. Drinks for the grandparents. Pastas with the old college friends. There we were too, processing our new life in the ‘old’ world. Or the New Years Eve crowd feasting on paella and voicing defining moments of 2016.
Very symbolically, the 2.5meter table was inaugurated on the last day of 2016, albeit still unvarnished, a little unstable and not quite finished. That’s how the table will always be: an invitation despite the mess, the chaos, all the imperfections that tell us we aren’t perfect enough to host. The table was set up, right there, under the fresh artwork my visiting friend had made for us that morning. Not knowing the significance of “The Table” in our lives, she wrote out the passage in the Bible: “He brought me to the banqueting table and His banner over me is love.” Paint was still wet as our New Year’s guests shared our table.
On my brother-in-law’s final day visiting us, he was still staining the table a warm dark oak color, which looks like the rich, brown shade you’d get from walnut brew. “Was that intentional? ” Asked our next guests, knowing all about the majestic walnut tree near the farmhouse that gave its color to the beams in our house hundreds of years ago. Not intentional, no, but perfectly fitting for all the folks who will join us at our table in our new dwelling place.
So, here’s to 2017, our year of the table!