Monday, February 25, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: DINING ROOM TABLE

by Norman Rockwell
For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.
I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?
In January I wrote about: apron, bar, basketball, bed, bicycle, birthday, boat, broom, button, cake, car. February's prompts are chair, chlorine, church, concert, cookbook, couch, dancing, desk, dessert, dining room table, diploma.
We ate at the kitchen table, as none of the homes I remember from my childhood had a dedicated dining room. In the Burns Lane house in Birmingham, Alabama (the last home I shared with my family of origin), we had to walk through the kitchen through a narrow opening to get to the table which just fit between the stove and bay window. (I believe the table was oak, and oval-shaped, with a leaf that never came out, because our family of 7 needed all the space we could get!)
For Sunday meals we would crowd around, all scraping chairs and bumping elbows to behold the table covered in dishes: pot roast (which my mother prepared in the morning, so that it could cook in the oven at 325 degrees while we attended church), pear salad (a lettuce leaf topped with a canned pear half then sprinkled with grated cheddar cheese), rolls. 
We joined hands and someone – my father, usually-- would say the blessing, that went something like this: Thank you, Lord, for the food we are about to receive, and for the nourishment to our bodies. For Christ's sake, Amen.” We all chorused “A-men,” with a long A, and then we dug in. We passed the dishes counter-clockwise around the table so that everyone could get their portion. We talked, we laughed, we teased... these Rockwell moments never lasted long, but I do treasure them. I'm grateful to my parents for their efforts toward making these traditions a part of us.
The poem “Family Dinner” in CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? (with Charles Waters) also chronicles a family dinner tradition, though it wasn't one from my childhood but from my parenthood:
art by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko
Best and Worst
Each night we go around the supper table, say the best part of our day, and the worst. Bests are easy as creamed potatoes: an A on a math test, Pajama Day, new shoes. Worsts stick in my throat like tiny fish bones: the bracelet I lost and still can't find, my sniffly nose, what Shonda said at recess. But saying it out loud helps. We listen and laugh. After supper we all play a trivia game and once I even win. - Irene Latham
And here is a new poem:
Kitchen Table
I've known card games,
all sorts of stains
and scratches.
The busy hum
of a sewing machine
quick click
of a calculator.
I've endured tears,
easy swipes
and hard polishes.
But nothing compares
to Sundays
when the plates
sit heavy,
when the jostling
and chair scraping
has stopped
and they all link hands,
resting them ever so lightly
on my face
and someone says,
thank you thank you
- Irene Latham


  1. Love that you wrote a poem from the kitchen table's point-of-view! thank you xo

  2. so many images flashed in my mine when I read this... it's not just good, it's grab you heart and squeeze good.

  3. All of this is special, and I love that kitchen table speaking to us readers, too, layers of memories like so many of us have. Nice to read, Irene.


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