I haven’t had a kitchen table in months. I have never personally owned a kitchen table, but my roommate did, until he moved out in December. Fortunately, he left me many other things which are still in my possession:
Two area rugs
Two kitchen rugs
One particle board bookshelf
One accent cabinet
One restored mid-century modern cabinet with drawers
One computer desk
One filing cabinet
One cat tree
Various knick-knacks, including two houseplants, one salt lamp, and one pet water dish that resembles a water cooler
But the kitchen table is gone. It was very nice.
It was a bright mahogany, maybe six feet long and three feet wide, rectangular but with its edges beveled into slight curves (like this). It split in the middle, hamburger style, with locks at the bottom to expand the table for an extra leaf. We never had the leaf; from what I remember it was still in storage at his aunt’s house.
Regardless, it was a beautiful table, a piece of furniture other yuppies might drool over. The chairs were ok — our cats liked to scratch their claws and sleep on them, getting hair everywhere — but the table was the crown jewel of the kitchen. My previous roommate and I had eaten off a metal folding table hidden with a family tablecloth. With this table, I had no complaints. It was perfect.
I worked from home even before the pandemic, and the table became my battle station. I’d get up for work at 7 and start my day at the table, with coffee and my li’l homemade bagel, lox and cream cheese (do not judge me!!). I’d stream congressional hearings from that table, and make disaster meals which were too late in the day to be lunch but too early to be dinner. I’d take interviews from that table, leaning back in one of those hair-covered chairs, my feet propped up on the chair across from me, typing away as my cats loafed, looking out the back windows a few feet away.
Before this table came into my life, I didn’t think I needed one. I used to live in a pricy but outdated one-room apartment a few miles north of Downtown Austin — one of those places where the layers of paint had congealed over the years, forming random squishy air pockets along the walls. The living room “area” was big enough for a couch and coffee table, but a small table didn’t make much sense to me. People liked to visit me because I lived in the city (not a brag!), and where would I have even moved a kitchen table with a queen air mattress taking up most of the space?
But I look back at my 16 months there and wish I had just gotten one. My roommate’s kitchen table made it so much easier to “escape” the rest of my home and feel like I was, mentally, at my official place of business, away from where I relax and unwind and go to bed. Mentally compartmentalizing all the terror of being a young journalist and watching Twitter as the world seemed to end day after day was hard enough; I should have tried physically compartmentalizing, too. And, if I had purchased a kitchen table back then — maybe one of those expandable ones from Ikea for when you have company over — I’d at least have a kitchen table now, saving me from writing the many hundreds words on the topic of how I don’t.
I got laid off while sitting at that table. The details don’t matter (at least, not here), but I’m glad I got to sit down at a table and be told my job was no longer needed by the company that was letting me go. I didn’t work at the table for a while after getting laid off—partially because I suddenly didn’t have much work to do, also probably because of what had happened to me there. I’m glad I wasn’t sitting at, say, my couch, or in my room, or anywhere else in my house that might remind me of getting laid off.
My roommate left a lot of his furniture with me (despite my specific insistence that he not, because I am too proud to accept nice, free things without a fight). He thought it would be cheaper to buy new things than to move it all to California, but he also didn’t want to be reminded of the previous home that he bought the furniture for, and the person he lived in the previous home with, and the year after he moved out, when he moved all that stuff in with me. I get it, the pain and memories that things hold. Not that I’d ever compare our situations, but I empathize.
My roommate left his kitchen table with me for a few weeks after he left, with the understanding that his parents would eventually pick it up and move it to his aunt’s. Our third roommate, my cousin, had a kitchen table from another previous home, which I thought was in storage and easily accessible to bring back to our house. Before the big table switch, I found out that we couldn’t get my cousin’s kitchen table, at least not for another month or so. I didn’t want to be a burden to my old roommate’s parents, so I let them pick it up, even when they asked me if I was sure I didn’t need it (ever the proud fighter, I am!). In the weeks after, my cousin decided that she, too, didn’t want her old kitchen table, for about the same reason that our old roommate didn’t want his things, either. We made vague plans to go furniture shopping, and use a credit she had at a local furniture store, but then March happened. We don’t go out for more than we need, even as the mental and physical compartmentalizing gets harder, once again.
Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t try to get a kitchen table earlier — do I feel like I need one just because I can no longer go out and get one? I’m currently writing this from my couch, one leg slung over the arm, listening to my boyfriend, our new third roommate who is also now working from home, singing to anime show tunes in the next room. Before stay-at-home orders, I was fine working by myself when everyone else was out at work. Now, I just wish I had a kitchen table.
I’ve looked at kitchen tables online, at all the various low-end outfitters of mid-century modern furniture, but I’m not going to buy one. I don’t need a kitchen table as much as someone needs to not put themselves at risk of contracting the virus, regardless of contactless delivery options. It sounds dramatic, but it’s true. My cousin’s recently considered using her old kitchen table, which is now in accessible storage, but getting it home would require a swapping of cars and mini vans with my parents. My cousin nor my mom have the ability to work from home, so it’d be a risky move.
I would like to have a kitchen table, maybe in a few months, but I don’t know when we could feasibly make that happen. I don’t really mean for this blog to mean anything more than what it is — a piece about a piece of furniture that I didn’t think I needed but am now realizing I need terribly. This, of course, is the least of my and anyone else’s worries, but it’s nice to fixate on something that, in the grand scheme of things, matters very little compared to the rest.
Image: Michael D Beckwith/Flickr (CC0 1.0)