Do you remember how the grown-up’s holiday table sparkled? How the plates all matched and the candles were lit with real wick and flame? Can you see the linens folded just so, and the way the flickering light of the candles met the wine in each glass? The chairs, their upholstery sunk deep and each one reached the table at exactly the right level for eye contact and tidy food consumption.
Did you imagine, like me, that the adults passed around the key that unlocked the secrets of your past and future? Did their hushed words and gentle laughter float on the air over to your table, inciting a feeling you could not name, but you knew meant something akin to the word “potential”. You imagined that table held for you all the potential of your future self, all things that glitter and whisper and shimmer in the dark. The adults clammed up when you came around asking for another biscuit, only adding to the allure. They gave it to you and said, “Run along now.” And you returned to your table, to the mini and mutinous one, with its display of mis-matched dishes and paper napkins, and you knew it was second best.
I have always coveted a seat at the grown-up’s table. I longed for an invitation, a place set just for me with my name in calligraphy on a folded piece of paper. I have rejected what I felt was second best, the table where the chairs form a higgledy-piggledy circle of misfits, where nothing shimmers but the tears in the eyes of the kid who’s laughing the hardest. This is the place where things get spilled, where we’re all messy and silly and slightly awed at the potential sitting in the hush of the other room. It’s where fart jokes make the rounds and always get a laugh, where we reject elegance for the sake of second helpings.
It’s possible the invitation will never arrive for either one of us. So what now? What do we do with all this pent-up potential flickering like a beacon in the distance?
We pull up our too-small chair, and we revel in the riot of inappropriate laughter.
We open ourselves up to what this table has to offer. Second-helpings of dessert while Mom’s not looking? Yes, please.
We search for beauty. Her crooked smile, his freckles, the uncomplicated ebb and flow of this band of misfits. Forget the wick and flame. We are shooting stars with a light all our own.
We unravel our own secrets.
We accept that our potential is sitting at this table with us. We pull up another chair and offer it a seat.
This wild and colorful and messy table has been prepared for us. There is no second best. Our cups runneth over. Let us make merry and feast.