The Kids’ Table

For a while, we renamed it “The Employed Table,” but the retirees didn’t think that was very funny.

November 16, 2012 | | Back Issues | Community | Departments | Headwaters Nest | In Every Issue | Winter 2012

In my family, it was simply known as “The Kids’ Table.” When I was a child and visited my mom’s side of the family, there was a four-by-four-foot card table off to the side of the main table, with seating for me, my brother and my three cousins. On my dad’s side, there wasn’t a Kids’ Table as such – age gaps among the offspring meant it wasn’t possible to cobble together a decent group worthy of its own four legs. So my visits to the maternal side of the family always seemed extra special.

At the card table we had our own salt and pepper shakers (silver!), our own thoughtfully folded napkins, our own tablecloth, and maybe candies, or fall leaves, or paper turkeys, or tiny Christmas ornaments. Just for us! The decorations were not fancy, but they were exclusively ours and appeared dutifully year after year. No doubt the tablecloth was a hand-me-down, stained from many dinners previously enjoyed by the adults, but we relished the joyous moment we walked in and saw the magical set-up.

When my cousins and I were young, we all enjoyed the innocent fun and games around the table. Oh, the silliness: the hiding of vegetables under the edge of our neighbour’s plate, and challenges to each other to eat more than the next! I often won. (I also became known for my pointy elbows and getting in line for firsts and seconds early, somehow ahead of everyone else).

We sometimes growled at each other in primal ways: who had taken too many turns on the swing before dinner, who had received Canadian Tire money from Papa this time, who was chewing with his or her mouth open or otherwise not observing proper manners.

Often I finished first. I’d slide out and, as someone from the Adult Table got up for seconds, sneak into their spot. As much as I loved the Kids’ Table, there was also the allure of the conversation at the Adult Table, the quieter tones, the bigger laughs, the adult clothes and smells, and of course, my mom’s always warm and soft side to lean against when I became sleepy. As I became older, it also meant a glass of wine.

In my family, it was simply known as “The Kids’ Table.” Illustration by Shelagh Armstrong.

As much as I loved the Kids’ Table, there was also the allure of the conversation at the Adult Table, the quieter tones, the bigger laughs, the adult clothes and smells, and of course, my mom’s always warm and soft side to lean against when I became sleepy.  Illustration by Shelagh Armstrong.

The boys all grew exponentially and their legs tangled underneath the tiny card table, causing tempers to simmer. The little table couldn’t contain us. The age difference between my brother and the rest of us began to show, and he slid up the seating ladder. Conversation became a bit awkward among the remaining four of us – each of us sure we were the coolest. I was moody and artsy, my boy cousins were techy and citified. My cousin Hillary was the sweet sister I didn’t have, but the six-year gap between us continued to yawn until we were both done with our education and travelling.

As my grandparents aged, they were no longer able to host the family dinners. My mom and aunts took over. Eventually, with travel, school, weddings, divorces, cancer and death, the Kids’ Table set-up and attendance declined – to non-existence. We forgot about the napkins and the trinkets. They were packed up or given away when my Nan and Papa died. It wasn’t about the things though, so much as the ritual that was gone.

Recently, however, it has gathered steam again. My cousins live far and wide, but we manage to keep in touch. And when we are all on the same continent, we make a fuss and take pride in sitting at “The Kids’ Table.” For a while, we renamed it “The Employed Table,” but the retirees didn’t think that was very funny.

At the gatherings, two little grandchildren don’t quite fill out a true Kids’ Table, but they have caused a resurrection of pomp and circumstance. Table gifts, decorated cakes, and crackers that go pop and spill out paper hats that crinkle and make us look silly in photographs – it’s all there! We make our dinners using recipe cards handed down from relatives, or we create new ones. Sometimes we invite new friends to share our table and they fill it up with their little ones, their family stories and their dishes.

Amid all the fun and the choruses of “Sit down!” and “Eat your dinner!” the revived rituals remind us of those missing from the festivities, and produce a throb of nostalgia for the long-ago days when we once ruled the Kids’ Table.

Pass the cookies, please!

Cook up holiday treats featuring wholesome local ingredients at the Palgrave Community Kitchen during the Youth Cooking Class: Holiday Cookies on November 27, 6:30 to 9pm. It’s free for youth 11 to 19. The Community Kitchen is located at 34 Pine Ave, Palgrave. Register via email at [email protected].

Let’s party!

The Caledon Parent-Child Centre presents its annual Children’s Christmas Party on Friday, November 30, 9:45 to 11:45am, at the Albion Bolton Community Centre. Along with Lenny Graf from Treehouse TV, Santa will be dropping by. Adult and child tickets are $8; babies under 12 months are free, but you need to reserve in advance at 150 Queen St S, Bolton, or by calling 905-857-0090. cp-cc.org

Good Ol’ St. Nick

St. Nicholas visits the children at St. John’s Anglican Church on December 1 at 3pm. There will be carols and the story of St. Nicholas will be told in a setting perfect for children. The church is located at 3907 Hwy 9, east of Orangeville. 519-941-1950; stjohnshwy9caledon.ca

Breakfast with Santa

Join Westminster United Church and kick off the holidays with a pancake breakfast, a visit with Santa, photos and vendors on December 1 from 9am to noon. Tickets for this family event are $20 per family or $5 per person. 247 Broadway, Orangeville. 519-941-0381; westminsterorangeville.ca

Hospice Dufferin is also hosting Breakfast with Santa on December 8 from 8am to noon at the Orangeville Curling Club, with seatings at 8am and 10am. Tickets are $5; children $3. Santa photos are available for $10 (please bring a flash drive). Reserve by calling 519-942-3313. hospicedufferin.com

And that’s not all. Be sure to visit kidsinthehills.ca/events for Santa’s full schedule. With parades and other breakfasts and drop-in visits, he’s a busy man in the lead up to the big day.

Sugar plums danced in their heads…

The Nutcracker is coming to the Rose Theatre on December 5 and 6 at 7pm. It’s a perfect opportunity to dress up the family and enjoy the majesty of the State Ballet Theatre of Russia. Traditional choreography, a sparkling stage, dancing mice, and of course, the Sugar Plum Fairy. Tickets for children 12 and under are just $25 – and it’s so close to home! 905-874-2800; rosetheatre.ca

Burn it off!

Head to Mono Cliffs Provincial Park for an 8km, gently-paced New Year’s Day hike with the Dufferin Hi-Land Bruce Trail Club. Walk off the excesses of the night before and get a jump on your New Year’s resolutions. All ages and levels welcome. Meet at 1pm at Mono Community Centre, 754483 Mono Centre Rd. 416-763-8854; dufferinbrucetrailclub.org

Getting into the spirit…

Isn’t this time of year magical? It really is about all the things we love – family, tradition, and of course, children! I hope these or other activities will help make your season bright. Remember, our online calendar is full of good things for you to do throughout the year.

Until 2013! –Bethany

About the Author More by Bethany Lee

Bethany Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Orangeville.

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