The Heartbeat of the Kitchen Table

Posted October 23, 2013 by jimhigley


Cousins and fun at the kitchen table.

I don’t remember much about the first house I lived in. We moved from there when I was almost four.

But I do remember the front porch. And the upstairs bathroom with two sinks and a big mirror. I remember the backyard ice skating rink – which my dad built for us during the winter months.

And I remember our kitchen table. It sat smack in the middle of the room. A whale of a table – a requirement with five boys. And, most memorably, it was a picnic table.

A six-foot long redwood picnic table. Complete with two benches flanking the sides.

Why did my parents have a picnic table in their kitchen?

The truth – so they told me years later – was they couldn’t afford a nice table. And because they couldn’t have what they wanted, they figured out how to make it fun. And fun was the best way to describe what sitting at that table was all about.

Mealtime in our house was more like a tour through an Army mess hall. And our mom managed the process – including shouting out everyone’s duty in her sweet but oh-so-in-control voice. Her pots all looked like five-gallon buckets and her apron rivaled that of a short-order cook. Our plates were plastic and we drank out of old jelly jars (no worries when one was inevitably broken!). There was always a loaf of sliced bread sitting in the middle of the table, a pitcher of milk, and much-needed stack of paper napkins.

I don’t remember the food (sorry, Mom) – but I remember the feeling of sitting at that table. Squeaks and creaks and all.

And that feeling was fun. It was brothers. It was grounded. It was belonging. It was the smell in the air and the laughter drifting in and out of ears. It was voices layered upon voices.

It was the ritual of a prayer. It was passing butter down the line. It was an older brother pouring milk.

This was fun.

On an old picnic table.

Memories born.

Because this was family.


This memory is brought to you through my partnership with Kimberly-Clark during the months of September and October. It’s part of their Pick Up the Values Program– providing tips and ideas for parents to stretch their budgets.

Today’s Pick Up the Values Tip for Stretching Your Budget is all about fun: A great way to avoid wasting food is to have a weekly “Scavenger Hunt” meal. Let your kids “hunt” for the menu items (protein, fruit, vegetables) using ingredients you already have in the kitchen! It’s like making a free meal – even if it means you’re serving pancakes with meatloaf! And most of all, the kids will learn and have fun at the same time! 

Be sure to stop by the Pick Up the Values Facebook Page for more tips and conversations!

While I’ve been compensated by Kimberly-Clark for this story, the memory, and belief in their product is as real as it comes.