The following is an excerpt from Come to the Table: A Celebration of Family Life written by Doris Christopher, Founder and Trustee of The Christopher Family Foundation. We know that celebrations will inevitably look and feel very different this year. Someday, in the not too distant future, we will be able to come together once again, and what a celebration that will be! We wish you and your loved ones a very safe and happy Thanksgiving.
Some people preserve memories in quilts made from scraps of old baby clothes, others in snapshots they paste into scrapbooks. I store mine in oak at one end of my kitchen, perched on a pedestal and surrounded by chairs. The table: when I look at it, I see my life.
I see my ninety-year-old grandmother in her farmhouse kitchen following a recipe that exists on no page, mixing unmeasured ingredients for the sugar cookies I’ll never quite manage to duplicate. I see my mother rushing to the sink in the kitchen of my girlhood, a missing pressure cooker in her outstretched hands. I see velvety raspberries still warm from the sun on the table of our Michigan cottage.
I see all this and more as I look at my table, my own private home movie coming to life in my mind’s eye. Endless images project on the screen of my mind: my two older sisters bending over their homework, my father savoring stew on a cold winter night. The reel turns slowly at first as my parents and siblings give way to my husband and daughters, my mother’s gray Formica to my golden oak. I’m a girl, then a teenager, a young wife and mother, and then a mother whose girls have grown up.
Like my mother and grandmother, I still come to the table to connect with the people I love and as we gather around it, we, too, are transformed. No longer separate and solitary, we regain our identities as part of a much greater whole. We become a family, sharing not just our suppers but ourselves.
It is here, at the table, that we rejoin the pack, in a timeless ritual. Surrounded by the people who matter, gazing into the faces we love, we count our blessings and share our burdens, reliving the daily drama of missed buses and skinned knees. The table is where we mark milestones, divulge dreams, bury hatchets, make deals, give thanks, and tell jokes. It’s also where children learn the lessons that families teach: manners, cooperation, communication, self-control, values. Following directions. Sitting still. Taking turns. It’s where we make up and make merry. It’s where we live, between bites.