Maybe it was because the rest of our house was so small, but the kitchen table at our parents’ home has been the focus of our family life for more than 59 years. That table started in their new build in 1955 and continues to this day. The young newlyweds entertained their family and friends at that wooden table before quickly starting their own family to celebrate life’s ups and downs.
Daily, our parents, Grandpa and the five of us kids crowded around the table for dinner. Almost every night Mom cooked a “Sunday” dinner for us. Don’t get me wrong. It was far from a Norman Rockwell scene. Some nights we rehashed the issues of the day, while other nights I was sent away from the table for either arguing with or laughing too hard with a sibling over some inside joke. In retrospect, we were quite lucky to sit down together as a family almost every night.
The table is where we did our homework, played board games and tried our hardest to beat Grandpa at a game of rummy. I don’t think any of us ever did.
It is where our mom spent days preparing for christening, first communion and graduation parties. And it was the place memories were made over tea or beers while entertaining visitors from across the street or from across the pond in Ireland.
The kitchen table was production headquarters on Saturday nights for Dad to show his thousands of feet of 8-mm home movies. The projector sat proudly on the kitchen table like it was the center of the universe, and Dad would feed reel after reel as we sat around the table or on the kitchen floor and watched the events of our lives unfold on the screen.
More than once, some poor neighborhood kid got pulled in by Dad to listen to his narration of every life event he witnessed behind his movie camera. In the ’70s, there was “A Movie for a Sunday Afternoon” on local TV. Who needed that when you could be regaled by “Buddy’s broadcasts” on Saturday night?
April 15, 1984, found many family and friends sitting around the kitchen table mourning the unexpected loss of Dad. Stories were told and the drinks flowed. But since that day, no one dared attempt the task of running that coveted projector.
It is now 30 years since Dad died. Those thousands of feet of film have been converted to DVDs. A recent afternoon found some of us at our sister’s home watching hours of these DVDs. The kids couldn’t understand why there was no sound, and I must say I got to a point where I was thinking, “Dear God, is this ever going to end?” (Sorry, Dad!) Although if he had been there to narrate, I’m sure I wouldn’t have minded.
Mom never missed a beat. She continued their practice of gathering everyone around the kitchen table. Her nine grandchildren don’t even realize they are continuing this custom she and Dad started so many years ago. The kids frequently find themselves around Grandma’s (and Grandpa’s) kitchen table, whether they are just stopping in for a visit or are there for some celebration, managing 20-plus chairs around the table. I don’t think Mom is any happier than when she looks around her kitchen table at all her children, their spouses, her grandchildren and their spouses.
Thanks, Mom and Dad, for what you started. Our kitchen table is still a safe haven for all of us.