A Place At The Table


Pamela Perry Blaine

   It was from my place at the kitchen table that I learned a lot of important things. 

First of all I learned to sit still.  As a very small child, there were two places

 that I knew I was expected to sit still and that was at the table and in church. 


We had a very small kitchen and the table was barely large enough to

seat us all and hold some food too, but a lot of living took place around

that old kitchen table.  Sometimes we just had sandwiches but that

didn’t matter we still ate together at the table.  We each had a place

at the table.  There was never any question, when Momma

said, “Supper’s ready”, we quickly slid into our designated places

at the table with no argument between us kids about who would sit where.


My place at the table was next to Daddy and my brother sat on the other side of me.  Momma sat across the table where she could reach other food items or

utensils that we might need.  We always sat in our same places at the table

except when we had company, and then sometimes the seating

arrangement changed a little to accommodate guests.  


Momma did her best to teach us to be polite and courteous and she would

often do that by telling stories about the consequences of bad manners. 

One story she told was about a time when Great Uncle Sike (a nickname for Silas)

came to visit.  It seems Uncle Sike had just sat down at the supper table when my brother, who was too small to have learned his manners very well yet,

announced loudly, “My place!”  I guess Uncle Sike evacuated that chair

in no time flat but Momma was just sure that was why Uncle Sike never ate

another meal at our table again!   I don’t really think Uncle Sike was all that

offended but it made a good story for Momma to teach us children

a valuable lesson.  At any rate, Uncle Sike must have forgiven my brother

 because he and Uncle Sike became the best of friends. 

Later in life, they shared a lot of meals together where Uncle Sike

always had a place at my brother’s table.


Our family was very informal during meals, yet it was at the table

 that we learned good values.  We learned to pray because every

meal began with prayer.  Momma taught us to pray:


“We thank thee, Lord, for this food, for health and strength

and for every good…Amen.”


As we grew older we added our own words and petitions but I have

always remembered the prayer that Momma taught us. 


As children we learned to sit still,  (Yes, I know I mentioned that before

 but it’s because I remember how difficult it was to sit still), and we

were taught to mind our manners.  Some of these teachings were:


“Don’t talk with your mouth full”

“Quit carving pictures out of your meat and eat it” 

“Keep your elbows off the table”

“Use your napkin, not your sleeve”

“Don’t make smacking noises with your mouth”

“Stop blowing bubbles in your milk”

“Remember to say please”

“Always say thank you”

“Never leave the table without asking to be excused”

“Sit still” (Did I mention that?)

“Don’t interrupt when someone else is talking”

“Never talk about the dog throwing up or any other disgusting things at the table”


We learned to take responsibility and to work by helping with everything

from preparing the meal and setting the table to cleaning up afterward.

Momma taught us how to behave at home so we would know how to

behave later in public.  She also taught us that we were expected to

offer to help if we were guests in someone else’s home.


It was at my place at the table where I heard a lot of good conversations

and everyone had an opportunity to have a turn to talk and make comments. 


Later, when I had a family of my own, we each had our places at the table. 

Each child began in the high chair and eventually graduated to a high stool

and then on to a regular kitchen chair.  The lessons I learned

growing up enabled me to know more about how to prepare meals

and teach my own children the lessons that I had learned around the table.


Recently, I read that 75 per cent of families do not eat meals together anymore. 

There was a time when families all gathered around the table for all of their meals.

 It seems that today most people don’t make it to the table for

even one meal.   Families often eat in shifts, in front of the television,

or grab something while driving through a fast food lane

 on their way to some activity. 


It is interesting that statistics show that the children of families who eat meals

 together five or more times a week have lower rates of smoking, drinking,

and illegal drug use.  Teenagers are also shown to have higher

academic performance.  There is something to having “a place at the table”.

 It is a place where we feel loved and accepted and conflicts

are often resolved.  It is a place where much is learned,

traditions are established, and memories are made.


Although manufacturers have made mealtime simpler

 with microwave ovens, dishwashers, and many other appliances,

 we seem to be missing the most important element at our tables today. 

We wonder why it is that many children seem more restless,

lack manners, and are deficient of basic domestic skills. 

It might just be because something is missing around our own

dining room tables.  We are missing the people…families… all sitting

around the table where each person is given the gift of “a place at the table”.



Pamela Perry Blaine

© July 2005