The words “Kitchen Table” stir powerful emotions in me. They take me on a magic carpet ride more than fifty years into the past to the days when I was a child in my family.
The first memory that comes to my mind is not of eating but of Grandma Emma, my brother Ed, my mom and I sitting around the kitchen table on an evening after the day’s work was tidied away. We’re playing dominoes, laying the tiles out on the table in ever changing snaking trails.
Grandma Emma, who stayed with us part of every year, going from one of her children’s homes to another, was 61 when I was born, so by the time I was 10, it seemed that she was REALLY old. But in 1946, people of her age were expected to dress and act old and Grandma Emma played the part well. Her face was heavily lined with wrinkles and her long white hair which reached well below her waist when loose was braided and wrapped around her head, and held in place with enormous celluloid hair pins. Her braids were very ornamental, like a crown of glory, not needing sparkling gems to add to their interest. She wore long dresses, usually covered with a bibbed apron.
Grandma was frail and stooped over, walking slowly, resting often. But playing dominoes, seated at the kitchen table, she was eager and alert, young in heart and mind. “Muggins!” I can hear her gloating. It was a game she taught us. Add up the points on all the end dominoes and if it was divisible by five, you had earned that score. If you played carelessly without counting your points, or added incorrectly and didn’t announce your score, an opponent could shout, “Muggins,” and get your points.
I don’t remember who won those games. I remember the fun, the strategy, adding the points over and over, working out which place would bring the highest score, watching opponents moves and trying to be the first one to get “Muggins.” What a triumph! In my mind, Grandma was the dominant one in those games.
We also enjoyed mealtimes at the kitchen table and I’ll write about that in my next installment.