Tiny Island of Home: Friday Morning Coffee #74

I shared this brief story a few weeks ago on Twitter for a project called StoryTweeting. Each week they host brief nonfiction stories based on a prompt. It’s an effort to flood Twitter with the beauty and empathy of stories and take a break from hot takes and news cycle reactions. If you’re on Twitter, you should consider joining!

What story would you share about a “table”? Share in the comments below.

It wasn't much to look at—cheap wood, simple stain. If you leaned on the edge, the top sprang loose, careening toward your chest. It was like everything else in the house—humans and objects alike—worse for wear but still standing.

It was rare to find the chairs around that table empty. Boards and nails kept quiet witness to dreams of bright futures and hopes of new beginnings. They kept secrets of tears and stories of heartbreak. We stared into fancy cups of American tea, with special sugar crystals that dissolved into swirling patterns of golden glitter.

They learned to sew at that table. I would peer over their shoulders as they carefully guided fabric under the needle. Each of them got a dress, and all but the littlest ones helped to make their own. How proud they were to show them off.

They started a little business at that table. The kitchen bustled with entrepreneurial activity. Cookies and cinnamon rolls baked by the dozens, carefully bagged in thin cellophane for selling. How excited they were to see the money trickle in, in profit of their hard work.

Every Saturday, a group of three or four came for dinner. It was an anchor to my week. I’d spend the day cooking and present them with a feast. They would arrive in their best clothes, clean and wet-haired from the shower.

It was a moment of normalcy, a bit of family life, to sit around the dinner table together. For a brief moment, they became my children, and I, their mother, and we talked about school and friends and life goals.

My kitchen was a tiny island of a home. It was a place nearly my own, when I wasn't sharing it with rats or scorpions. It was a place they could find a whiff of freedom in an institution, designed to lock out those who had hurt them, that sometimes became a prison.

The space around that table was my refuge, and I think, at least at times, theirs as well.