The Memory Table
Seven-year-old Steven dragged his backpack down the unfamiliar pathway to his new house. School was over for the day, but Steven was not looking forward to going home. Yesterday a big moving van had brought all his stuff to 746 Maple Street and inside would be a mess of half-emptied boxes. This morning he had found his toothbrush, but no toothpaste. Mom said it was in a different box.
Steven felt lonely and sad. Everywhere he had been all week was new. He did not recognize faces at his new school. The new house did not greet him the same way as the old house. As Steven crossed the threshold of his new house, he slammed the new door and thought, “Even the door slams differently.”
Standing in the front hallway, Steven looked up and saw his mom coming forward to give him a home hug. Home hugs at the door were his mom’s specialty. Steven felt the familiar warmth and love as his mom hugged him. He smiled up at her and forgot his sadness as he said, “I sure hope that’s peanut butter cookies I smell."
“That is a super nose you have there, young man” his Mother answered.
“Make way for super nose as it heads towards the peanut butter cookies. Close behind is wonder mouth that will eat those cookies.” Steven yelled as he sailed down the hallway toward the smell of peanut butter cookies.
In the kitchen, Steven stopped and stared. Everything was put away and by the window was their very own kitchen table. This rough, pine table had been in his kitchen as long as he could remember. It had two chunky legs on the ends which his mom always said made it easier to push in the chairs. Around the table were four chairs with thick legs and padded seat covers with chickens on them.
Steven walked to the table and saw the red permanent marker spot from when he was two years old and started to draw without paper. At the end of the table, there stood a napkin holder he made in crafts at day camp and the funny chicken salt and pepper shakers from his Grandmother’s house. In front of the salt and pepper shakers was the stained-glass chalice he made at his old church. Right in the middle of the table was a hollow spot from the marble slab his mom used for cutting out Christmas cookies. Next to the hollow was a huge plate of his favorite peanut butter cookies. Steven smiled as he sat down.
His mom came over to the table with two glasses of cold milk and sat down with him at the familiar table in her usual spot.
“I know you’ve been sad, Steven. You are missing all the old things and exhausted by all the new things. How are you feeling now?” asked his mom.
Steven munched a cookie for a moment and answered, “I was sad until I saw the table.”
“What did the table do to make you feel better?” asked his mom.
“I started thinking about all the things that happen at this table. We have Thanksgiving here with lots of relatives and that can happen the same, here, too.” Steven stated. “And the grace we say at this table will be the same, even if it’s in a new place.”
Steven’s mom smiled. “What else will continue in this new house?”
“I can do my homework here and remember all the other times I sat here and learned things.” Steven added.
“Steven, this table is the place where memories meet new experiences for our family. Our home is the place where we eat together, grow together and learn together. Even if the building where we meet is new, the good things that happen in our family home don’t change.”
Steven paused. Then he said, “Mom, can we light my chalice so I can remember all the times I learned at our old church? We are going to find a new church, aren’t we, Mom?”
Steven’s mom went to a drawer and got a match. “Yes, Steven,” she said. “We will find a new faith home. Just like our family home, the rituals of our new Unitarian Universalist faith home will bring good memories. Let’s light the chalice and say our affirmation from Sunday School (or religious education time) together.”
Steven carefully lit the stained glass chalice. His mother helped him say the familiar words:
We are Unitarian Universalists,
with minds that think,
hearts that love,
and hands that are ready to serve.
Steven felt warm and comfortable saying the words with his mother. His heart now knew that he had many old memories to bring along with him as he went into new places. And each new place would provide new experiences that would become memories, as his family created a new home.