Nearly a hundred years ago, just seven blocks from this old house — with its crumbling front porch and its three growing daughters — lived a family of immigrants in the old Greek neighborhood.
Boys played loud, kicked cans and made scooters from fruit crates. Parents spoke in the language of home and told stories with olive hands.
Yaya raised her four boys, including my grandfather, Papou, here. She laughed and cooked and baked in the apron she wore over her belly, under her ample bosom. Rounded lace collar under chin, bun pulling back loose brown hair.
During the war, Yaya’s boys traveled across seas, proudly fighting for their country in blues and tans. The family was deeply patriotic, and Yaya hung American flags in windows, awaiting their return.
She felt the honor and missing deep and forever welcomed home with hugs, homemade food, touches of cheeks and love tinged incense.
Several generations ago, this table sat in Yaya’s home. And before that, it made its home in another kind of house. A house of ill repute.
It’s hard to know how the transfer happened. Perhaps the table, creaky chairs and matching dresser moved from a brothel to live among our family as payment for barber shop services provided by my great-grandfather.
We really have no idea.
But today I sit at the marked and dinged oval of our everyday. The table I’ve always known — the one that lived in the dining rooms of my childhood, held games of Parcheesi and Uno, Mama’s tuna curry casserole and homemade bread braided and shining, topped with poppy seeds.
I run my hand across stories told in grain and knot holes.
For this table is the honey and chestnut-tinged ground where family joins hands to pray and shares the day’s cherries and pits. It’s where we talk about spelling tests and friendship and how we tried to give love away.
It’s the ground of roasted chicken and burritos, potatoes and green salad. It’s the wood dotted by caked oatmeal and biscuit crumbs, dribbles of plain yogurt.
It’s where we live out traditions and argue over last pieces, look at each other with tired eyes and arrange party food. It’s the place where we complete school projects and break into song. It’s where our hearts and bellies say, I belong.
Many years ago, Yaya sat around the table with the ladies from church, eating special cookies and sipping ouzo. Many years ago, Yaya walked from kitchen to table and laid out arms filled with spanakopita and dolmathes.
Then, as now I suppose, the surface peppered with pen marks and scuffs, water rings and heat marks.
We are holding hands across these years, Yaya and me, the sound of the pedestal creaking with the weight of stories and of young people reaching across for more.
The gorgeous and soulful writer, Amber at The Runamuck, is leading an exploration of voice in writing, in which we use concrete words to express the abstract. This week’s began with the prompt “THE TABLE.”