I was brought into their house when their number of children grew to five. The junior before me was put in the basement for laundry duty. It seems that I was “On Sale” which was not a comforting thought for me since I thought I was brand new. The parents seemed pleased when their eye caught mine. I was delivered and placed in the kitchen’s most prominent place. Matching chairs made me complete and ready for my first duty.
Plates, glasses of milk, silverware and hot plates adorned me each night for many, many years. When the call for supper was made I could see anxious little legs and feet dangle. The two bigger folks feet were firmly planted on the floor. At each meal the conversation suddenly grew loud after everyone said “Amen” in unison. It wasn’t always important talk but things about school and the question often raised by one parent was, “Then why go to school if you’re not learning anything?” No answer was ever given to that unusual question.
Some nights, even after the dishes were washed and put away, one dangling pair of feet remained at the table. I could smell liver and onions but did not know why this lone one remained. It seems that turning off the kitchen lights did not prompt those feet to leave me. Some contest was going on and the little feet thought that she would win. Eventually the lights came on and a single dish was washed. I never found out if she won or not.
Every year a repetitive song was sung for each child followed by clapping. I heard lots of laughter during those occasions along with wrapping paper strewn all around me. Some nights I would be awaken by a warm glass of milk laid on me and only one pair of legs, always the “planted” feet. I’d have to stay awake for that hour of so while hearing sighs or even a calculator or notes written. Only on Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving was a beautiful white garment placed upon me. (I think someone in the family made it.) On rare occasions the older man would pound on me to emphasize something he was trying to say but not doing a very good job of it because he needed to land his fist upon me. It didn’t hurt me, I was made to last. (Even if “On Sale.”)
The most fun was watching those dangling feet in summer and wool socks in winter get longer as they reached toward the parent’s floor. The conversation seemed to be more formal; no more phrases or one words but now sentences and concepts and quandaries. I became to notice more nicks and scratches on me during those years also. The older woman would sometimes polish me like a facial covering but it didn’t help. I didn’t care. I earned each nick from a broken glass or pencil markings or the Valentine’s heart that the boy and a strange girl tried to inscribe into me until one parent stopped it. Now I’m plagued with a “half heart” tattoo. I guess that makes my aging body feeling contemporary, sort of.
If there’s to be an eighth sacrament, I think that, “legs” down, it ought to be me. In all humility, it’s me that gathered this tribe together at least once a day if not for card games, board games, permissions to marry, stuttering while admitting a pending divorce, needed loans (“only for awhile, trust me!”) but how many other significant and silly encounters that occurred on top of me. (No matter how beautiful you’ve crafted your living room, the guests will always, eventually and inevitably convene around me.) I know that sacraments are supposed to be a process and not an object but this object (notably me) brought together, sustained and weathered a family growing up together.
I often tell the huge flat screen in the living room that he’s the diversion but I’m the place where food is shared, stories are told, angers are waged and settled, secrets are shared and then broken, where division and then reunion occur. I deserve to be the eighth sacrament, if there ever is to be one.
I’m old now but still sturdy. All but one has left now, others have returned for a short time but then leave again. Oh well, I served a sacramental purpose. I’m holding out for the “Antiques Roadshow.” Who knows, there may very well be another family with small dangling legs to serve.