Sunday, October 5, 2014

One Night at the Round Table

It is near dusk in October, 1963. The seven-year-old child pulls the wooden handle on the square drawer in the antique dry sink. She counts out six napkins and deposits one at the center of each placemat, as she walks around the round maple table.

Her mother calls this space the breakfast room, though all the family's regular meals are eaten here. Bumping into the yard, it has the feeling of a porch, with three paneled walls, each with a window.

There is no one else in the room, except the salt and peppered schnauzer puppy curled up in its basket in the corner near Mom's sewing area.

Becky stands at one of the large windows, watching a fat-tailed gray squirrel scamper along the telephone wire that follows the property line. An assortment of tall trees surround her yard and she delights in watching the squirrels, the robins, and the cardinals that share this space with her family in the sleepy suburbs of Buffalo, New York. The squirrel runs, then stops, stands still, runs again, finally jumping onto the roof of the small white poolhouse and disappearing into the trees.

Becky makes several trips to the kitchen to collect handfuls of forks, knives, and spoons and tidily finishes setting the table for dinner: knife and spoon on the right, fork on the left.

Soon Mom returns from the basement laundry room and tells Becky to ring the bell. The boys are upstairs doing homework, Patty is getting ready for a date, and Dad is changing clothes. The little brass dinner bell stands on a shelf nook in the hall just outside the kitchen. It is formed in the shape of a woman wearing a long skirt. Becky has mastered the art of ringing the bell. She grasps the woman's head, keeping her fingers off the body, holding her pinkie in the air. She's learned that the bell makes a dull clank when her hands curl around the skirt. Now at the bottom of the stairs, Becky makes the little bell ring as loud as possible while she yells,"Dinner!"

A few minutes later, Jeffrey, John and Dad are seated and talking quietly among themselves. Someone has lit the candles. Mom dishes up dinner onto the white Correlle plates that are stacked near the stove, and Becky helps carry the plates to the table, while Patty pours six glasses of milk.

Dad likes to talk. Tonight Dad is teaching the boys about fire and heat. He reaches to the center of the table and quickly moves his index finger side to side, right through the candle's flame. Becky's eyes and mouth open wide with excitement and interest as her brothers and sister all follow Dad's lead. No one says ouch. Dad explains that the fire is the hottest at the bottom of the flame. He cautions not to touch the blue part and not to linger near the top, just keep the finger moving.

Becky decides she wants to try it too. She reaches forward but realizes that her arm is too short. Her hands fall back into her lap. Conversation moves on, but Becky is fixed on her desire to experience moving her finger through the flame.

Sometime before dessert it comes to her.

She twists her napkin in her lap, stands up, and extends her lengthened "hand" toward the center of the table.

Contact is made and sounds of urgent exasperation are heard around the table, chairs thumping on the floor as everyone stands up. The surprised seven year old has just learned a lesson different than the one about heat. Though fingers don't burn when quickly drawn through the cool part of a flame, napkins DO catch on fire.

Memoir Notes:  This story was best told from the perspective of the third person. I was able to step outside the memory and see it happening from the perspective of my 58 year old self, watching the seven year old self, as though it was someone else.

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  1. Made me laugh. Very well-told memory.

  2. This memory... a life lesson for sure.
    I'm coming back to this one... I thought I'd commented already.
    I enjoyed hearing about girl: Becky--
    she sounds like a very inquisitive child.


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You may not know me, but I know everything about you. Psalm 139:1

I know when you sit down and when you rise up. Psalm 139:2

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Even the very hairs on your head are numbered. Matthew 10:29-31

For you were made in my image. Genesis 1:27

In me you live and move and have your being. Acts 17:28

For you are my offspring. Acts 17:28

I knew you even before you were conceived. Jeremiah 1:4-5

I chose you when I planned creation. Ephesians 1:11-12

You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book. Psalm 139:15-16

I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live. Acts 17:26

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

I knit you together in your mother's womb. Psalm 139:13

And brought you forth on the day you were born. Psalm 71:6

I have been misrepresented by those who don't know me. John 8:41-44

I am not distant and angry, but am the complete expression of love. 1 John 4:16

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Simply because you are my child and I am your Father. 1 John 3:1

I offer you more than your earthly father ever could. Matthew 7:11

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Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand. James 1:17

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My plan for your future has always been filled with hope. Jeremiah 29:11

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My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore. Psalms 139:17-18

And I rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

I will never stop doing good to you. Jeremiah 32:40

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I desire to establish you with all my heart and all my soul. Jeremiah 32:41

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If you seek me with all your heart, you will find me. Deuteronomy 4:29

Delight in me and I will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

For it is I who gave you those desires. Philippians 2:13

I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine. Ephesians 3:20

For I am your greatest encourager. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you. Psalm 34:18

As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart. Isaiah 40:11

One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes. Revelation 21:3-4

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I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my son, Jesus. John 17:23

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He is the exact representation of my being. Hebrews 1:3

He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you. Romans 8:31

And to tell you that I am not counting your sins. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19

His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you. 1 John 4:10

I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love. Romans 8:31-32

If you receive the gift of my son Jesus, you receive me. 1 John 2:23

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Come home and I'll throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen. Luke 15:7

I have always been Father, and will always be Father. Ephesians 3:14-15

My question is…Will you be my child? John 1:12-13

I am waiting for you. Luke 15:11-32

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