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Put Everyone Around a Round Table

King Arthur had it right – a round table solves a lot of the problems in the world.

I brought my wife a latte, extra hot, just the way she wants it.

Because I am a good person.

A few minutes later, she casually said, “How did you like your chocolate croissant?”

“What makes you think I got a chocolate croissant?”

“Because there’s chocolate on the lid of my coffee and you have crumbs on your tummy.”

Oooh – so now I’m living with Sherlock Holmes.

In all honesty, living with a smart woman is not an unmixed blessing. 

I had gone to town to get groceries for Sunday dinner. It’s kind of a tradition at our house, if you can call something you do 40 or 50 times a year a tradition. It’s nothing fancy – my wife plans a menu that involves the least amount of work possible, and any relative within driving distance shows up. The menu can’t be too complex, because there’s an eight-decade age range. My specialty is mixing up the limeade. If you want a culinary tip, my secret is to use club soda and a dash of ginger.   

Once everyone shows up, we gather around my wife’s grandmother’s oak dining room table. On the best days, we need to put in all six leaves.

It’s an old table. My wife got it from her parents, who used it after her grandmother, but its history goes back further than that. I often smile when I think of what the person who built the table would think about our herd as we gather around it. My guess is we look different than he would have expected. On the other hand, America looks different than it looked 100 years ago, so in a way, we’re directly in the mainstream.

The table has taken kind of a beating over the years. A hundred years or so of spilled milk and dropped silverware leaves a mark. Two tiny pieces of scotch tape hold some chips in place, and the upholstery on the chairs looks like 4-year-olds have kneeled on it for a few decades.

I’m not judging. I’m pretty beat up myself, and not only because I’ve had 4-year-old’s kneeling on me for a few decades.

After the meal, the temptation is for everyone to retreat to the safety of their personal screens – phones, iPad, etc. We fight that pretty hard. When the weather is nasty, we play games or just talk, sitting around the table. 

I think King Arthur had it right – putting everyone around a round table solves a lot of the problems in the world. I wonder if folks in Washington sit at round tables or are there just square ones that force you to pick a side before you sit down?

In good weather, we kick everyone outside. No need to feel bad for the kids; it’s not torture. Outside, three boats are ready to go on the slough: a canoe, a paddleboat, and a decrepit sailboat. There are fruit trees in the orchard, grapes and raspberries to pick, cats and dogs to play with, and a few other odds and ends to help the time pass. The hot ticket this summer has been learning to drive a four-wheeler, although I’m guessing the fascination with that will wear off in time.

I realize I’m painting the picture of a cliché – a group of people, age 4 to 90, sitting around a beat up table in an old house, eating hot dish, and playing card games that a 6-year-old can understand. There’s a smelly dog and some random cats outside, waiting patiently for someone to pull their ears. I’m not going to apologize for that. I’m in the place I’ve wanted to be since I was 12, enjoying the people I’ve always wanted to be with. Sometimes living a cliché can be OK, can be kind of wonderful. 

But the thing with the alleged chocolate croissant – that was all circumstantial evidence. The chocolate and the crumbs could have come from lots of places. Maybe there was a pastry, maybe there wasn’t. No one can know for sure, and it’s not really important. What’s important is that we don’t get distracted from the truth, which is that I brought my wife an extra hot latte, because I am a good person.

Copyright 2019 Brent Olson

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