Fed at Ancestral Tables

I’m from the Ballard kitchen table . . .

Where using the back door is a sign of intimacy.

Where we knew it was company when someone used the front door, requiring us to holler out an apology for taking so long to open the door that was perpetually locked and stuck tight.

I’m from the Ballard kitchen table . . .

Where grown-ups sip Luzianne coffee

so strong it puts hair on the chest of women

and scares it off the men.

I’m from the Ballard kitchen table . . .

where the women

cry silently throughout the day

and years later

decades later

lifetimes later

their children remember and wonder why.

I’m from the Ballard kitchen table . . .

Where the women have their own heavily lacquered chair

within reach of the refrigerator, the sideboard, and the stove. Chairs

seldom used as the women keep plates filled with nourishment and glasses filled

with sweet tea to wash it down with.

I’m from the Ballard kitchen table . . .

where the men shoot guns

and butcher hogs

while the women swap fabric scraps in brown paper bags

and sew quilts for every family member

and plant, tend, and harvest the summer garden,

cooking fresh vegetables for lunch

and stocking the pantry with canned vegetables for the winter.

I’m from the Ballard kitchen table . . .

where Grandmother refused the gift of a dishwasher,

sending it straightaway to its final resting place in the back of the barn

preferring to spend however long it took to wash, rinse, and dry the considerable number of containers and utensils used at any given meal.

I’m from the Ballard kitchen table . . .

where Granddaddy told his stories over and over and over again

where Grandmother remained silent as though she had none.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’m from the Hewell table . . .

where the women enjoy dressing nicely, being with men and each other.

where women earn their keep by taking care of the men in their lives.

I’m from the Hewell table . . .

where personal information is kept

tucked safely away behind closed lips

so it can’t be used as a weapon against you.

I’m from the Hewell table . . .

where it’s nobody’s business how old you are

’cause if they know how old you are, they’ll treat you that way.

Just ’cause you can count something, doesn’t mean it counts.

I’m from the Hewell table . . .

where the women hate to bother anybody.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I write at a kitchen table that belonged to both my grandmothers

and to the town library before them.

A table where Granddaddy Hewell patiently fed my

Grandmother one bite at a time after the strokes

left her arms and hands useless.

I write at a kitchen table where the leftovers

were pushed to the center of the table after the meal

and covered with a clean tablecloth, allowing

us to graze our way through the rest of the day

not knowing what was available to eat


we lifted the covering and looked underneath.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’m from women who have staying power.


I don’t think so. They didn’t bounce back as much as they persevered.



Those are words that work.


Perhaps that’s The Word I seek.

I’m from women who just kept putting one foot in front of the other


Keep moving.

“You’ll feel better if you move”, they’d say.

along with:

“This, too, shall pass”


“It could be worse.”

“Did your life turn out the way you’d imagined it would?” I’d ask them.

If not – and I’d hasten to ask Does it ever? –

Why did they stay?

Why didn’t they change something?

Or did they try?

Did they feel helpless?

Did they buy into the patriarchy-infested religion,

believing that their lot in life was precisely what they’d earned?

What they deserved?

Did they believe that some male figure sat Up There

and decided that they were worth no more or no less

than their current lot in life at any given time?

How did they make themselves believe that everything was okay?

And who am I to say it wasn’t?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


One Response to Fed at Ancestral Tables

  1. Mom says:

    And, oh, how I wish I could go back and sit at those tables and listen to the stories. And taste the good food. And be with the families there.

    But, I find myself thinking about those times more and more. And wishing–and loving every bit of the experience and every family member there.

    And hoping to leave good memories for others. And hoping they know the things I want them to remember. And hoping they know how much I love them.

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