The kitchen table

by little red pen

I just looked at our kitchen table and realised that it almost always has at least one book on it. The Cat and I are the worst culprits; we sit at the ends of the table, read through meals, and leave our books for next time. Sometimes a book will migrate from one end of the table to the other, and sometimes the Rabbit will fetch a book too, for company. He astounded us the other day by “reading” Fox in Socks out loud — he got a surprising amount of it right. Poor Ian thinks we’re a bunch of heathens. But I notice that there are three books about magnolias in my space this week, and I didn’t put them there.

It’s an incidental, grazing sort of reading that goes on at the table. The Cat can afford to fully immerse himself in the experience, devouring soccer biographies and Calvin and Hobbes cartoons with the same comprehensive determination with which he eats, but I need to be somewhat alert to the needs of my children for food and of my partner for conversation. So I’m more likely to have a copy of the Listener beside me, or a recipe book, or the Lonely Planet France guide. Things I can dip into, things I can skim. And as I look at the table again, things I can dream with. Isn’t that what we all do with books? Dip our toes into other worlds, imagine ourselves into travel, soccer stardom, outrageous childhood, new ideas, a garden, a banquet. Little dreams to sustain us through the pattern of our days, like the food we share, like the stories we tell.