When I lived in Japan I saw desks in stores for kindergarten children. These were serious pieces of furniture the family would buy and then build on, year by year, as the child grew in age and scholarly responsibility. Knowing there was so little room in many Tokyo homes, I was impressed that families were willing to take up so much of that precious space with a desk for each child.
In our house, we might have to get rid of (or banish to the basement) a princess house, talking stove and toy box to make room for desks for both of our girls. But we haven’t gone there yet. They do their artwork, play games and do homework at our well-worn, oak kitchen table, in the thick of all of the rest of the household madness. They’re not quite at the age where they can do their homework without me. And they don’t want to draw or paint without me and my husband nearby to admire their artistry, either.
I have a desk of my own in my room, but I can’t hide away from the girls very long. They’ll find me anyway. So no matter what I have to do – pay bills, read a newspaper, build a ship in a bottle (no, not really) – I seem to end up right back at the kitchen table. The cats curl up on the chairs and the puppy finds shelter under my feet.
The only problem is when it comes to mealtime. I rush about getting dinner ready to put on the table, then turn and look. Paintings are drying there. Mail is stacked up. Tools my husband has used are left behind. I’ve left myself no extra time to sort and redistribute all of these vital things back into the household, so more often than not, I slide piles over or push a cat off a chair to stack all the things there so we can eat.
Many people refer to their kitchens as the heart of their homes. For us, I think, it’s the kitchen table. Because even if it is cluttered and showing its age, the table is where we do most of our eating, talking, learning and living. And if we’ve got to make a little mess to do all that in such a tiny space, well, so be it.
Eventually our girls might prefer to spend most of their home-time in their rooms, on the phone with friends, doing their drawings in private or doing their homework alone. By then, I bet, I’ll be able to keep the table clean and pristine and ready for a banquet.
But what fun will that be?