it doesn’t matter to us that it is a vintage windsor wheelback country kitchen chair. it’s just a sweet chair in the dining room of a little house in the north carolina mountain town we are fond of. our favorite part is the stenciled “EAT”.
my next tiny project will be to stencil this onto the old metal framed chair in our dining room. it’s the chair we grab when 20 comes over and we eat inside. we always pull it into the kitchen and sit around the small square table my dad refinished 34 years ago. we could sit in the dining room – there’s plenty of space and more than enough chairs – but it’s cozy in the kitchen and we choose cozy for sitting, sipping wine, eating together, catching up, laughing. the textures in our kitchen are the same as in this mountaintown dining room – old wood floors, thick white trim, light grey walls, black chairs. i tend to select the airbnbs that look like our own sensibility – a home away.
back in the day i had stenciled along the entire kitchen upper wall, just like in our foyer. simple checkerboxes, but that has gone the way of simplicity. one of these days i will need to repaint the foyer – the plaster in there is forcing my hand. and the last of the checkerboxes will disappear. an era. bygone.
i laid awake last night for a long time. my dear friend linda told me that when she is awake for long periods at night she will walk through their bygone houses in her mind. it calms her thoughts and brings her closer to sweet sleep. last night i walked through my growing-up house, in the front door, into the living room and the kitchen, the dining room, the paneled den with the gigantic rock fireplace, down the hall into my bedroom. i took a tour of the basement and the backyard, the woods behind our house. i moved on…to florida and the homes i lived in there. the sheep farm in new hampshire, the littlehouse on washington island. here.
although i could picture the homes and the furnishings – for the most part – the pictures – snapshots from a viewmaster – i could mostly see were the gatherings. people gathered around tables in the kitchen, people gathered for holiday meals in the dining room, people gathered en masse outside or inside, just munching on snacks or burgers or making apple pies or having shrimp boils or big parties or little parties with tables lined with foods everyone brought to contribute to the feast.
it’s been a while since we have hosted any big parties. a couple years now. when i worked at the church we hosted all the time – any excuse for a choir party, all the summertime ukulele rehearsals. we added our big dig, the slow dance party, christmas eve outdoor luminaria bonfire fests. community was built around these gatherings – people coming together to visit and share and eat, to slow down and talk and share where they are at. a community that gathers grows. a community that shares meals grows. a community that authentically cares grows. connection. comfort. contentment.
we miss those times. it came naturally to us to be the spot. job loss and covid, financial strain, caution-in-gathering – they all put constraints on the big – and small – gatherings. little by little we return around the table. literally and figuratively.
in the meanwhile, we gratefully sit in the sunroom surrounded by happy lights or in the kitchen at the table, the legs of which dogdog gnawed on as a puppy or outside on the patio by the fire.
the thing we always knew: “alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.” (helen keller)
where two or more may gather.