A Family Table

Nearly 13 years ago, before I started Stones and Feathers, I began a blog to share our family’s journey. I was a beginner at blogging, but I had been telling and writing stories for most of my life. The first post after my introduction was a story about a table. Last week, all our family who could come here gathered around that table to celebrate our son Jeremy’s birthday. As I edited and cropped some photos of the gathering, the table spoke to me again. This time I realized that by now, 6 generations of my family have gathered there to give thanks for good food and and to tell our stories.

January 14, 2009: Last night we gathered after work and school to celebrate Sean’s birthday. I pulled out my biggest soup pot and made gumbo with shrimp and crab. As I chopped and added tomatoes and onions and garlic with some of the last garden peppers to survive winter temperatures, the house filled with promising smells. The addition of rice, a crusty baguette and a Red Velvet cake completed the menu, but not the celebration. That happens in many places, but mostly we gather noisily around the table by a wall where a sign says “Memories Made Here.”

┬áIf the oak could speak, it would fill our hearts with stories. The table came to me when my grandmother was going to live somewhere other than her home. Today I believe it is called downsizing. She called it “breaking up housekeeping”. My grandfather had died and she, refusing to move in with my parents, went to live in a tiny apartment not too far from them. Not married long ourselves, we had no room for a big dining table in our apartment, but I loved the table that had been where we gathered to eat at Grandma’s house, and I wanted to keep it. She and Papa bought it second hand around 1920 after their house burned. They were replacing furniture. Since she was selling what she could, and badly needed the money, we insisted on paying her for the table. She would only accept $25.00. It sat for several years in Mother’s and Daddy’s garage. When we bought our first house with a dining room, we brought it to live with us and so began its role in our own family celebrations. That was nearly forty years ago. Since then, it has moved with us from San Antonio to Dallas and other Texas homes, to California and beyond to Indonesia. Perhaps it felt like a homecoming for the table when we brought it back to Texas in 1992. It was certainly a homecoming for us.

Last night, the gumbo was spicy and delicious. Sean’s birthday candles lit up the room, and our gratitude to God for him and for our family lit up our hearts. Grandma Terrell’s table was the altar of another blessing of our food and family as it held our bowls and our elbows and soaked up another memory, another story of family celebration. (posted originally in mappingsforthismorning.blogspot.com)

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October 18, 2022: Once again we gather to celebrate a son’s birthday. Now our family has grown so we need more tables! I fill with so much gladness and gratitude when I think of all the places we have had this table in our home, all the occasions for sharing meals, all the laughter and sometimes tears. Many dear friends have joined us. Not long ago, our pastor and a deacon friend brought communion to us so we shared that cup and bread there too. Now I am the grandmother who has been “breaking up housekeeping.” Joe and I have been blessed to live with Ben and Kristen, Nora and Oliver for the last six years. I still call the table “Grandma Terrell’s Table” but it is more fitly called our family table. When it travels on to beckon more gatherings, it will stay a part of our family story.