Cambrian: Slice of Life

Tabling the issue

For months, we had chuckled and clucked occasionally about the latest, oh-so-chic, mismatched furniture fad — a long dining table book-ended by two “head” chairs and flanked by two or three matching smaller chairs on one side and a long bench on the other. Interesting.

Then I remembered “the kids’ table,” the youngsters’ dining version of being sent to Siberia.

Do you know what I’m talking about? During big family gatherings when you were little, were you consigned to eat at a table surrounded only by other children?

We were. My grandmother’s big table in the grand dining room held at least eight people in luxury and comfort. But at nearly every holiday celebration, there were way more of us than that. So, my grandmother divvied us up: Adults sat at the dining table, and anybody under a certain age was banished to the dreaded kids’ table.

We weren’t siblings, so we didn’t live together, but spent most holidays and summer vacations together. That also meant we instinctively knew how to aggravate each other — and because we didn’t get to do it often, we really, really enjoyed doing it, always with pure and innocent looks on our faces.

No wonder the kids’ table was in the breakfast nook, separated from the dining room by a long butler’s pantry. In parental lingo, it’s called soundproofing.

Despite the high jinks, we all hated being banished to the kids’ table. We felt as if we were being punished for doing bad things we hadn’t done yet and hadn’t even thought about doing … until sitting at the kids’ table turned us into Dennis-the-Menace clones.

As the youngest and littlest Munchkin in the group, I was the eternal fall guy (or gal).

Broccoli under the table? “Kathe put it there.” (I probably did.)

Gum stuck under the chair seat? “She did it.” (I probably didn’t.)

The dog has a turkey leg? “She gave it to him!” (Not a chance. My mother and I raised dogs, and I knew better.)

Do you think a birthday is special if you’re finally old enough to get your driver’s license, or enlist in the Army, or drink alcohol legally? Those benchmark dates didn’t hold a candle to reaching the age when we didn’t have to sit at the kids’ table any more.

Because there were three of us, as soon as the eldest was ready to be promoted to the adult table, we all were.

To prepare, we were scrubbed, combed, starched, pressed and polished to within an inch of our lives. Lectures on manners increased exponentially.

And posture? Remember your mother nagging you to sit up straight, to imagine a wire stretching from your bottom through your breast-bone to the top of your head? When we were promoted to the big table, we sat up so straight, we each looked at least 2 inches taller than we really were, just to make sure we looked like adults and weren’t sent back to dining Siberia.

But time passes. Now I’m in the grown-up (translation: old) position of needing more chairs than our table will accommodate and desperately not wanting to establish a kids’ table.

Part of the problem is we don’t have (or want) regular dining chairs, which tend to be matchy-matchy and dreadfully uncomfortable. Instead, our table is surrounded by cushy office chairs. We know the dining table is where our guests always wind up sitting, often for long periods of time, so they might as well be comfy.

Did I mention, our chairs also rock, roll, lock, swivel and adjust? Just imagine what those capabilities mean to a whimsical 6-year-old.

It’s not a chair — it’s a fun-house ride.

Faced with all that, we became more tolerant of the dining-bench idea.

It’s not perfect … yes, we have more seating in the same amount of space, but there are still the problems of what to do with the extra office/dining chairs when the bench is in use, and what to do with the bench itself when it’s not.

We’ll figure it out. Anything’s better than exiling my grandchildren to a kids’ table.

Happy Thanksgiving! And have a wonderful holiday season, whether you’re on the bench or not.