Oh, to be able to sit, just one more time, at the kids’ table during this Thanksgiving, or at any holiday dinner! It is still a rite of passage for some children, when they are allowed to sit with the lofty grownups.
It is obvious that the two different tables are two different worlds.
A decade or so ago, I was eating at the kids’ table with my niece, Lisa Travis, at Thanksgiving. I was a favored guest at that table. A few other kids were there, too. I was given the job of keeping the children fed and orderly. Heh, heh. While I wasn’t outrightly outrageous, I kept up my end of the silliness as “a fun uncle.”
So I’ve been a part of both “table worlds” and carefully noted their differences. For instance, there exists an undeniable sense of freedom at the kids’ table. Here you can be silly, tell jokes, and laugh out loud.
At the grownups’ table, all people seem to talk about is politics, the weather, their work and their latest injuries. When that’s over, they gossip about other people.
Back when I was a kid, I sometimes had to sit at the grownups’ table, and that stuff bored me. Almost all of that was “over my head.” Anytime I started to talk or ask about something, the grownups said little, merely smiling down at me patronizingly. I learned to just be quiet and daydream about the dinner being over. Then I’d rejoin the other kids and shake off my shackles.
Did kids ever have any fun at the grownups’ table? Not that I ever saw. Here rules were strictly enforced. You had to be on your best behavior and show your best manners. Sit quietly on your hard-backed chair! Don’t put your elbows on the table! Use your utensils correctly! Don’t stab your knife at the meat! Say “please” and “thank you” (even if the grownups don’t. After all, you must set a good example for them!)
“Don’t squirm!” “Don’t interrupt!” “Don’t look at me like that!” With all the “don’ts” being fired at me, it was a wonder that the grownups even let me eat.
But at the kids’ table, life was simpler and more civilized. Well, kind of. Here I was free from having to listen to the repetitive details about Aunt Lottie’s adenoids, or how stupid the President of the United States was.
Ah, freedom! Glorious freedom! Where you could accidentally shoot milk out of your nose. Where bizarre foods could be shoved under the plate. Where you could laugh hysterically at the lamest jokes. Where you could make faces that defied description. Where, if you failed to say “please” and “thank you,” critical eyes didn’t criticize. Where you could squirm and squeak the chair, and any kind of a food could become a finger food.
Where girls, who had it drummed into them to “sit like a lady” could sprawl their legs under the tablecloth and boys could kick off their tight shoes. (Girls could do this, too, but sometimes it was tougher to do, while wearing strap, patent leather shoes. Trust me on this; I had three sisters.)
Ah, the kids’ table! Where you could cough as loud as you wanted to. Where you could end sentences with a preposition if you wanted to. Where the grownups’ judging eyes were joyfully absent. Where, if you wanted to get up for some reason, you didn’t have to beg the pardon of anyone, and say “May I please be excused?”
Even at today’s kids’ tables, there is a much calmer, much truer, much less pretentious atmosphere. Here exists a more honest world, where children can be as they want to be, whether showing gross, or grace.
While presiding at the kids’ table, back then, I noticed grownups craning their necks, looking over at us. Sure, I knew that they were just making certain that we were behaving, but the envious looks on their faces were all too obvious. They were wishing that, like me, they could sit at this table just one more time.