School moves from classrooms to the dining room table this year, as families embark on virtual school. (Jennifer Bardsley)

School moves from classrooms to the dining room table this year, as families embark on virtual school. (Jennifer Bardsley)

An open letter to my stalwart Dining Room Table

You were made for elegant dinner parties, but you’ve proved to be indispensable during pandemic times.

Dear Dining Room Table, I want you to know that during this entire year you have been my rock. You expand to the needs of an ever-changing time and give me space to keep going.

In March, when school closed and the future was uncertain, you provided comfort with one jigsaw puzzle after another. In April and May, when fear turned to boredom, you welcomed the sewing machine and various quilting projects. You sat patiently as each of my children fumbled with the presser foot and learned to thread the machine, fabric spilling everywhere. You did not object when the scissors scratched atop your surface, or even when the thread ran out, and one of the quilts sat unfinished until August.

Last night when the replacement thread arrived and I finally finished the quilt, I remembered back 31 years ago to when I was in sixth grade and I sat beside you sewing a pillow on my mother’s machine. You were my safe place then, as you are now for my sixth-grade daughter. What a long and rich history we’ve had together.

This morning I washed you off, polished away the bits of thread that stuck to your marred finish and noticed how 40-plus years of family life were etched into your every ding. Today you give me strength for our next adventure, a full year of virtual schooling at home. This is not my first choice. This is not what I want for my children. I’m sure it’s not what you want either.

You were made for 1970s dinner parties. You used to be graced by china, crystal and silver that nobody really cares about any more. Christmas and Thanksgiving were your times to shine. The centerpieces — oh the centerpieces! Flowers overflowed next to flickering candles. The hand-embroidered linens and jeweled napkin rings accented your fine form.

This year, what will our holidays be like? None of us knows, and that’s scary. Some people who used to pull up a chair might even be sick. But you’ve got this. You’re holding us up and reminding us of your many talents. When times get tough you show us what you can do.

Books, computers, papers, pencils — you welcome them all. You transform into an impromptu classroom. Nobody knew you could teach Pre-Calculus or AP World History history until now. Long division? Piece of cake, along with a slice of cake for snack time, because you stay true to your roots.

If you can do all of these things, then I can do them too. I can expand to the needs of an ever-changing year. I can support my family during uncertain times. I can set aside my vision of what things were supposed to look like and embrace things as they are. I can show everyone — including myself — that I am their safe space.

So let’s do this, Dining Room Table. Let’s face the 2020-21 school year with hope. Circumstances change, but one thing stays true: You bring families together.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

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