Darrell Huckaby: Longing for the harmony of sitting around the kitchen table

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

After much research and a considerable amount of thought, I have finally figured out what is wrong with society. We don't spend nearly enough time sitting around the kitchen table. I'm serious about this thing, y'all, and I'm not just talking about eating supper, either.

Folks used to entertain in the kitchen and the kitchen table was the centerpiece of the home. People seldom come and visit us. There are a variety of reasons why they don't. For one thing, it's next to impossible to catch us at home, and if we are at home we are usually far too busy to sit down and visit, and, yes, I realize what a shame that is. We don't get a chance to invite people over to visit often enough because our house is always so messy that we'd be embarrassed to have company -- the price we pay for living the suburban lifestyle of the 21st century.

When we do invite folks over, we don't sit around the kitchen table. We often go into the great room and stare at our giant television screen, whether something is on that is worth watching or not. Talk about a conversation killer! Try talking to a friend about a subject of substance while some girl in a bikini is being covered with tarantulas and scorpions.

If neighbors drop by unexpectedly and the great room is more than 3 inches deep in dust or dirty clothes we might sit outside on the deck, which creates another whole set of problems. Right now, of course, there is the pollen issue. A guy came by the other day and I invited him to sit a spell on the back porch. He left an hour later with an inch-and-a-half of yellow residue stuck to his hair and clothing.

And I wouldn't dare invite someone to come in and sit down around the kitchen table. To begin with, we would have trouble finding it. Even as I speak I know without looking that my table is piled high with mail, sweaters, and jackets, not to mention newspapers, magazines and assorted athletic apparatus. The kitchen counters are probably piled high with dishes, and I'm sure the panty door is wide open, with the contents bulging out into the room. Don't even get me started on the desk by the kitchen door. Trust me -- our kitchen is not conducive to casual entertaining.

Mama'n'em -- now that was a different story. Tommie Huckaby had a little cross-stitched piece on the wall of her kitchen that read "No matter where I serve my guests, it seems they like my kitchen best." They did, too. Throughout her entire life she spent most of her waking day in the kitchen and when friends came by -- as they frequently did -- she would invite them to sit down at the kitchen table. They would drink a cup of coffee -- or three -- and solve the problems of the world.

On Saturday nights -- or on special occasions, such as New Year's Eve -- couples would come over for supper and once the dishes were cleared away everyone would invariably gather around that kitchen table, sip drinks a little stronger than Maxwell House coffee, and swap stories long into the night. And I've never seen happier or more harmonious people than the ones that would gather around that little kitchen table in Porterdale.

When my daddy and most of my parents' friends were long gone, my mama still spent most of her time sitting at that same kitchen table. Her kitchen always looked the same. There was a ledge under the window that always held an African violet or two, pictures of her grandchildren and the little music box that played "It's a Small, Small World" that she bought at the 1964 World's Fair in New York. On the table itself there was a napkin holder, of course, full of paper napkins, and a little toothpick holder full of toothpicks. How many of y'all have toothpicks and napkins sitting on your kitchen tables right this minute? If my mama were still alive, she would. I guarantee it. And a bottle of Tobasco, of course. There might be some sort of piece work -- crocheting or knitting, and perhaps a Reader's Digest -- but I guarantee you, even though she might answer your knock on the door with "Come in if you can get in!" there was never a need to scramble around and make things presentable. They already were.

Of course she wasn't as busy doing all the important things we do these days. All she had to do most of her adult life was to work a stand of looms eight hours a day, cook supper every night, wash clothes, clean the house, sew, and raise a family. That and sit around her kitchen table, visiting with her friends and family.

I wish I were as smart as my mama.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.