Communion: an act or instance of sharing.
When I think of my Dad, one of the first things that comes to mind was his love of cooking and having dinner parties. Every night, I was always eager to see what he had roasting in the over or sauteing on the stove. The house would fill with the clatter of pots and pans and scents of onion and garlic would guide my grumbling stomach downstairs towards the table.
Our table was long and made from dark wood that was textured as if someone had taken a mallet and whacked it hundreds of times. Running my hands over its surface, it felt as if it had been around for centuries … I’m sure that’s what World Market was thinking when they manufactured it – some young girl hoping that her relatives in Scotland had sat around its edges every night, gobbling down their turkey and sipping ale … well, that’s a vision I am happy to keep.
This table was the scene of countless meals: my Dad and I slicing into a tender pork chop topped with grilled onions and a tangy lime dressing; me and my high school friends diving into bowls of pasta salad and chili that we made for a potluck; the extra-spicy, ignite-your-tongue-on-fire jambalaya that my Dad made with triple the spices … us flinging towels to our guests to blot the sweat off their foreheads. But most importantly, this table is where my Dad and I shared our daily happenings, our embarrassing stories, plans for the weekend, travel dreams, what brought us joy, what was hurting us – how our actions hurt each other.
Regardless of the night, our family table was always a place of communion. There was no grab-and-go frozen dinner, no taking the food to our own rooms, no watching TV. Dinner time was special. The food, while usually delicious, was arbitrary. The conversation, the company, the relationships that were cultivated … that was everything.
Every time I see a kitchen or dining room table, I always wonder how the empty space will transform that coming evening. Will it remain empty? Will it be buzzing with kids stuffing their face with mac and cheese, speaking with mouths full and asking, “what’s for dessert?” Will it be shared by a husband and wife? Will it be a space of learning and sharing? Will it be a table for one?
Right now, my family table morphs from each day to the next. Yes, there is the table I eat most of my meals at in the condo I’m in currently … but that doesn’t feel like my family table. My family table sits in the house of Tom and Alma, a couple who lives out by the lake I used to row on every morning at 6 a.m.; it sits in my God parents’ house in Florida on the island of Longboat Key; it sits in Ft. Smith, Arkansas at my aunt and uncle’s house that overlooks the Arkansas River. In truth, my family table is wherever I create and share a meal with those I love and care for. While I do miss that sense of having one table that I can truly call my family table, I can’t help but feel blessed that I have family tables scattered throughout Portland, Bloomington and all over the country.
Communion and the family table – two words that will forever be connected in my mind. A shared experience and a place where it can manifest. I don’t believe there is any place more sacred.