As my then-fiancée and I prepared to get married and move in together a few years ago, there were a couple key pieces of furniture we knew we’d need to get. I’d dug through online ads to find the perfect comfy couch and matching “big chair” the year prior, and he’d bought some of our bedroom furniture, but there was one major thing lacking: a dining room table.
So we did what young, budget-conscious city dwellers always do — we Craigslisted. We studiously poured over posts together, hemming and hawing over each tiny decision: Pub style? Square, round, or rectangular? How many chairs? Dark wood or light? How about the one that was a real steal with the big scratch in the middle, which we could probably cover up with a runner or a tablecloth? Decisions abounded.
And then, one day, we found it: our table. It was lovely and light and solid. It felt earthy and well-loved and… it felt like us. We borrowed a minivan from a friend and loaded it up and brought it home. We had to fix some of the chairs with wood glue and take down the railing in our stairwell to fit it in the door, but it was ours. From those very early days, it’s seen us through.
I sometimes feel like the table could tell you the story of our marriage better than I could —it’s been the keeper of some of our loveliest, our hardest, and our truest memories. In the early days, it would tell you stories of a flurry of wedding preparations, of friends who stopped in to tie together compostable forks and favor cards with twine and to stamp craft paper with the custom P+E stamp I bought off Etsy in a pre-wedding frenzy. Or it might reveal stories of abundance at our housewarming party, the table hardly big enough to hold the plates of food brought by our friends: tortilla española and chorizo with figs and bacon-wrapped-everything and patatas bravas and espinaca con garbanzos and wine and cheese and sangria flowing and happy sounds of laughter all around.
It would tell you stories of visitors who came and slept on the couch in our one-bedroom apartment during those first few years, how we sat and ate and lingered as daylight turned to evening, so eager to connect and share the ups and downs of our lives. It would tell you of times my eyes welled with tears as we held space with friends who were grieving, how we couldn’t take their pain away but we could offer warm soup and bread, a place to be together, to sit in silence as we wrestled with the awful reality of suffering. It might tell stories of “I love yous” and “I’m sorrys,” stories of tired dinners spent mostly in silence. It would tell of friends who brought meals after our daughters were born — of our exhausted gratitude for their generosity and how they sustained us — quite literally — in those bleary first weeks of new parenthood.
These days, our table would tell you how those two no-longer-babies are learning to clasp their hands and say thank you, how they giggle through the sign of the cross. It would tell you of Christmas morning French toast bakes and our first Thanksgiving turkey — how we’re creating our own traditions now, weaving together our own pasts to create new meaning — our own new sense of home. It would tell you about pasta sauce caked onto the hardwood floor for days, and the not-insignificant amount of crumbs that live in the nooks and crannies of the high chair.
This table, after all, is where we do so much of our living. Most days, it’s half-covered with a stack of paper — crafts brought home from preschool, to-do lists and meal plans that never seem quite done. It’s the landing place for puzzle pieces that need to find their home, and at my placemat you’ll sometimes find a half-empty glass of wine, a bit of cold coffee in the bottom of a mug, or an empty sippy of milk. It’s where I sit to write Christmas cards. It’s where our daughters painted pumpkins this fall, where our oldest is learning to write her name, where my husband and I attempt to share about our days over the chaos and the laughter and the crying and the noise.
I have no idea what stories our table will tell a year from now. I hope there will be many more stories of joy and laughter and celebration, and I’m honest enough to acknowledge that there will probably be stories of pain and loss and heartache, too. But whatever stories this table lives to tell, I hope that they’re stories shared with others — that my husband and I, with the help of this little Craigslist table, have the courage to give life to the vows we made on our wedding day. That we keep together a loving home. That we open our lives — and our table — to those in need. That we live all before God, celebrating the sacredness of the everyday, and remembering that the Eucharist at its heart is a meal shared among friends around a very ordinary table.
And at the end of the day, exhausted as we may be, may we remember — as my giggling, clasped-hands daughters do — to sit down and give thanks.