In fact, this particular table has featured prominently in my “theory of youth ministry”, which I have shared in countless places over the years from district publications to, most recently, the 2008 LCMS Theological Convocation in St. Louis this past August. More on that some other time … Suffice it to say, this is one gem of a table.
My dad’s parents were two of the best people I have ever known. Grandma and Grandpa Staude were the epitome of quality folk —and I was blessed to really know them throughout the first 22-odd years of my life. The table that I am immortalizing through this post is their kitchen table; a rescue from an old diner in St. Joseph, MI, complete with the requisite Formica top and stainless steel accents. For many, many years, this little table was nestled warmly in the window nook of my grandmother’s home—the window side so tightly set against the wall that only the smallest of grandchildren could comfortably shimmy into those seats for a meal. And the color? That’s the best part. The color of the accompanying chairs reflected something of my grandfather’s boyish glee and silly side: a garish pink. Think Grease, the Pink Ladies; the color of 1950s ice- cream-parlor-pink. Fabulous chairs.
And if you knew my grandmother (who never owned a store bought dress and was hardly the definition of a rare beauty), well, let’s just say she probably never wore pink in her life! And was the better for it, I would guess. Strangely, it never occurred to me that it might be odd that my elderly, farm-minded grandparents sported a pink Formica table in their otherwise fairly staid and steady home. It just was, and we just loved it.
Every morning when we would visit, my sister and I would wake to eat breakfast with Grandma and Grandpa. There was a toaster to operate, devotions to read, and stories to share. We colored at that table. We helped dry dishes washed clean in my grandmother’s enormous farm-styled kitchen sink (original and not a Pottery Barn-esque knock-off). I remember cooking grilled cheese sandwiches for my husband and Grandmother after he had proposed, and eating them sitting around that table. I remember making a strawberry pie to feed my family while we were there trying to decide what should happen to the farmhouse after my Grandmother died from cancer. It’s a meaningful table.
And for the past 10 years since her passing, it has been stored in the quiet recesses of my Aunt and Uncle’s barn. This is a table that needs more than quiet dust motes for company! First in a soda fountain shop, and then as a centerpiece for a family as my Dad and Aunt grew-up, and then as a place for quiet devotion as my Grandparents would begin their day with prayer before the sun—this is a table for life. And for my grandparents, life meant that it was a place for laughter, too.
I am a firm believer in the importance of these necessary, rooted things. This table is more than just a possession, an inanimate, material thing … it is part of our family. It is a gathering place, and as such it represents many things that are good, real, important, and lasting.
My Grandparents pink table has come out of its storage space. It now holds a place of tremendous honor in my sister’s kitchen, which you can find in a rambling 100 year-old home in downtown St. Joseph. She just moved there with her husband, my two nephews, and sweet niece. In this enormous home that once housed a mayor of the city, my Grandparents silly, bright, and impossible Formica pink table holds a place of honor.
This weekend, I visited Katie with my daughter, Sydney and my best friend, Kathy, in tow. And the first evening we were there, we gathered elbow to elbow around the table for dinner. And the next morning, we gathered for coffee, playing with the babies, and laughter. And then for lunch. And then to work on homework with my nephew. To drink wine late into the evening. And watch the sun in the morning light. And to talk. And laugh. And be. I found myself sitting back from the scene, thinking about how totally happy I was that this odd little table had found its place once more.
Throughout the weekend, I heard again the sounds of all of those years of laughter, and thoughts, and prayers, and conversations, and I felt so grateful to be experiencing all of those things once more. I remember when my grandmother died feeling the deep hurt of grief, and wondering if things would ever feel right again. And of course, they did. Part of growing and aging is that you start to understand that deep joy can and does follow deep hurt. It’s a lesson that never grows old, and always moves me. Being at this table again was to live joy, laugh love, and revel in connection—what a table. What a place.