Sunday, March 18, 2012

The table

It seems almost silly to write the words, "A table changed my life." But the statement is true.

Two weekends ago, a family friend, who had purchased the contents of an abandoned storage locker at an auction, was having a sale in his front yard to get rid of the merchandise. Prices were rock bottom. And to help the friend out, I bought something I knew we didn't really need - a breakfast bar set, including a tall table and two stools, still new in the box. The price was thirty dollars.

An important detail: my wife Jamie wasn't with me when I bought the table.

My first reaction upon buying the set was that Jamie would probably kill me. Thirty dollars doesn't grow on trees, and as I said, we didn't really need it. Her reaction when I revealed the purchase was difficult to read; I knew she probably would have advised me not to buy the table had she been present, but at the same time I could tell her wheels were spinning with a decorator's intensity, debating options for where the table should go (one viable option, I knew, was up my ass).

But the next day, I took it out of the box and began the seemingly endless, but ultimately rewarding, task of assembly. Once it was put together, we dragged it into the kitchen. Jamie's first instinct was to use it as an island, but that was too impractical. Instead, we moved a rolling microwave stand (which we dug out of the trash and which has never held a microwave) to an unused corner of the kitchen, and placed the table by the window overlooking our backyard.

That night, we ate dinner at the table. Which is a big deal. We have a dining room, but it's right next to the main entry point to our house, and the dining room table is usually filled with the detritus of our everyday lives. So 95 percent of our meals at home are eaten in the living room, me in the recliner, Jamie spread out on the couch with a cat on each side. That night, however, we decided to give our new table a try.

Since then, 100 percent of our meals together at home have been eaten at the table.

That may sound insignificant; it's only a change of scenery. But some interesting things have happened because of that change.

For one, when we eat in the living room, television takes the place of conversation. When we are sitting face-to-face over dinner, conversation flows naturally without the interruption of a million talking heads pouring forth from the squawk box. In the past, Jamie and I have struggled with communication; we've always been able to speak to each other, but sometimes it's as though we're speaking different languages (Martian and Venutian, I suppose). At the kitchen table, we understand each other.

Eating at the table also seems to promote healthier eating. When I sit in the recliner and chow down from a plate of food on my lap, I feel like a blob and I eat like a blob. At the table, we sit straight up on backless stools. Better posture equals better eating habits.

And kitchen dining also makes us better at cleaning up after ourselves, which is a constant struggle. Instead of leaving our plates on the end tables in the living room, Jamie and I spend just a few minutes after each meal cleaning up the dishes and putting the leftovers away.

So yes, a table changed my life. We love eating at our new kitchen table. In a few hours, when I heat up my leftover carnitas, we'll eat there again. And I can't think of a better way to wrap up a weekend.

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