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Pickle Me This

January 31, 2014


table2There is a segment of the population that won’t understand this at all, but sometimes I get bothered because I’m not famous on twitter. (Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about though.) I have never once gone viral. BoingBoing pays me no attention at all, and neither does Reddit, except for the time that I reviewed a Harlequin Romance novel about the mayor of Toronto. And sometime I worry that my lack of twitter fame means that I fundamentally don’t exist, which of course is everything turned inside-out. I know this. It doesn’t take much to remember the truth, which is that if the whole internet disappeared tomorrow, taking my writing career along with it, and I was left with just my little family in the world, I would still have everything. This—our friends and our family—is what really matters. Of everything I ever make, this life we have together is more important than anything else.

And so I focus on the domestic. Not terribly fashionable, I know, but quite timeless (and celebrated, in all its raw complexity). I love my home, my kitchen at is centre (complete with the obligatory red teapot and bunting). We’ve lived in our apartment for 5 years now, which is the longest I’ve lived anywhere since I was 19 years old. We are committed to renting, and committed to this place, which may not be “a house”, but it is home. And in order to make this home work for the next few years, especially now that we’re a family of four, we had to do something about the kitchen. A kitchen which wasn’t big enough for our round oak table (which had been my childhood table; my mom bought it at an auction years ago), or at least the table was the wrong shape, it took up too much room, and it was far too crowded when everybody was sat at it. And I wanted to be able to have dinner parties. Dinner parties, to me, are integral to home.

table1So we had a new kitchen table built. Our friend Nigel Wilson, of Red Lion Workshop, took our measurements and plans (for a rectangular table with benches that could be tucked underneath when not in use) and this morning, with his excellent family, delivered the most important piece of furniture we’ll ever buy. Made of reclaimed oak, it is as solid as it is beautiful. It is everything we dreamed of.

I think that materials are important. I like to think in the long-term. I used to buy furniture in flat packs made out of particle board, and then one day I realized I didn’t want a life made out of such things after all. It is quite likely that I will never buy a kitchen table ever again, and so the extra investment we’ve made now will pay off in the long term, and then to be able to sit down together at a piece of furniture that’s made so well–what a magnificent foundation to build a family life upon.

To contemplate a kitchen table is a loaded thing. It’s still tied up in philosophy for me, because I’m thinking of Woolf and To the Lighthouse, and Mr. Ramsay thinking about a kitchen table when one isn’t there. For me, that kitchen table always looked a lot like this one. But to contemplate a kitchen table is also thinking about the future, about our children sitting on these benches, their little legs growing longer until they one day reach the floor. All the breakfasts and dinners we’ll eat here together, glasses of milk spilled and angry toddlers sent to their room, but the harmonious meals too, the conversations we’ll share. Homework also, once the dinner is cleared away. And birthday parties, play-dough, cookie-baking, hide-and-seek underneath it. Breaking out our portable ping-pong set. The friends who’ll sit around this table with us, friends we might not have even met yet. That we might move one day, and be able to replace the benches with chairs. The amazing privilege of possibility, the assurances of a future, or our faith in such a thing. Which is what a solid kitchen table signifies to me.

The table is pristine for the moment. I was talking to Nigel about this when he was here for lunch. I said, “How do we take care of it?” He said, “You have to use it. The first few rings on the wood, he said, will be painful to see, but you’ll get used to it. Then one day, maybe 20 years now, you’ll look back and you’ll see that mark, and that mark. And you’ll remember everything.”

14 thoughts on “Solid”

  1. Juhi says:

    What a lovely, and thought-provoking piece. So glad that you shared. Thank you.

  2. Maia says:

    This is so lovely, and especially timely for me because I have been thinking about our own kitchen table, with its one wobbly leaf, and trying to decide whether to fix the hinge or replace the whole thing. No (more) particle board in flat boxes for us, either.

  3. Joan says:

    Beautifully written Kerry.

  4. theresa says:

    What a beautiful table! And of course a dining table is the heart of the kitchen. Ours is from that store with the Swedish flag and it was meant to be temporary. It’s pine — real wood, though laminated. It’s a bit too wide for the dining area; with each gateleg end extended, it seats 8 or 10 (if people don’t mind being cosy) and it is exactly the same height and width of a smaller table that can extend the whole shebang to sit 16 or 18. It got pretty worn, the finish (a kind of acrylic) pretty much gone. We saw a wonderful table at a local workshop, made of reclaimed clear fir from a warehouse in Vancouver, with an iron base (the shop owner is a blacksmith). And we thought about it, came home to measure, etc. But our kids (who live elsewhere) all said, But that’s the table we’ve always had! So my husband borrowed a friend’s orbital sander and carefully removed the remnants of the finish. Then he oiled the surface and it’s beautiful again. Sure, there are dents and even a heart (from some art project where the “artist” pressed too hard on a pencil) in the soft pine but finally this is the table that’s seen its share of family dinners and many many dinner parties and every celebratory dinner imaginable. Homework, various projects, quilts sandwiched together on its generous top. And even though it’s still a bit wide, I think it will last.

  5. Sarah Emsley says:

    You’ve said it beautifully. Family, dinner parties, memories. Our table has permanent spirograph patterns.

  6. Curtis Wetherly says:

    Lovely. What a beautiful addition to your home.

  7. Teri says:

    What a beautiful post *and* table.

  8. Sarah says:

    Lovely thoughts – and such a fine looking table for making memories at. We have a little table in our kitchen with faint maths sums scribbled by my father & his brother when they were doing their homework at it fifty years ago.

    Your twitter angst made me smile – thanks for the mention earlier in the week! I’ve spent the last few days thinking about tiptoeing into the twitter stream – and having very funny dreams about tweets.

  9. saleema says:

    I agree about the unsatisfying nature of particle board! We’ve had to make due when it comes to shelving because of our collective book problem, but with tables I know it is worth the sacrifice for something more substantial and lasting.

    Your table looks beautiful and I hope it lasts through many wonderful family dinners and moments!

  10. Sara says:

    Lovely, Kerry! Made me think of this clip from the film Still Mine (filmed in our little village).

    1. Kerry says:

      Yes! Nigel and I were having our discussion in the context of that clip. Thank you for sharing this, Sara! I hadn’t seen it, but he was telling me about it.

  11. Sara says:

    Movie based on a true story. Once you see it, you’ll be wanting to come and visit. Beautiful part of the world.

  12. Sara says:

    Also, Craig died last year and when his family had an estate sale we bought his kitchen chairs. I already have the table I grew up with.

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