The axle holding up the world | Jennifer Anderson

The following is written by columnist Jennifer Anderson:

For many years, as far as I was concerned, the world revolved around my grandparents’ farmhouse kitchen. Even though it had been 10 years since they’ve moved, I recently wondered how the earth didn’t completely fall of its axle, implode and un-Big Bang without the hubbub of that kitchen.

Its backdrop was a majestic view of Mount Rainier peeking over the tin roofs of the barns and it was anchored by a round kitchen table pushed up against the wood paneling of the west wall. I’m convinced gravity alone would not be able to hold those four table legs to the floor without the weight of my grandpa’s thick white coffee mug. From his chair at this table, my grandpa could reach the drawer where my grandma stored the cookies, the Wonder bread and the double deck of cards used to play countless games of Enumclaw rummy. Games were sometimes played for quarters or dollars and sometimes just for “honor and prestige.”

It was at this table that I spent many hours perched on the denim laps of my dad, grandpa and uncles, learning to gamble, trash talk and swear (much to my mother’s dismay.) The gambling and card playing lead to finely-honed math skills (just refer to my SAT scores if you doubt me); my smart mouth and confidence can probably be attributed to the early exposure to trash talking. The swearing only lead to spankings and sharp looks from grown-ups, so I gave that up.

It was at this table that I learned to drink coffee and develop a strong relationship with sweets. I couldn’t take my coffee black, so I doctored it with whole milk poured from a yellow Tupperware pitcher. My grandma baked two or three pies each week and a slice was served with nearly every meal or card game. A piece was likely offered to any truck driver, guest or neighbor who happened to sit at this table.

Apple, cherry and blackberry were on the usual rotation of pie flavors. Grandma prepped, pitted and sliced the fruit in that kitchen before packaging it in large plastic bags to store in the freezer kept on the front porch. This was different from the freezer in the carport which held the Schwan’s tub of vanilla ice cream and various treats.

During holidays, this table served as the “kids table” where my cousins and I would sit after filling our Corelle plates in the adjacent dining room. We held our own conversations, could horse around without getting caught (as much) and had ready access to the milk pitcher in the fridge, the spare rolls and the extra gravy.

One day I found myself married and pregnant and still seated at the “kids table.” At that time, my grandparents had sold the farm and were building a single-story rambler better fit for old people with hip replacements and lung problems. It was then I realized I would never graduate to the big table in the dining room with my uncle’s name carved into the top. I felt strangely displaced.

My brother and sister-in-law now live in the single-story rambler my grandparents built and have taken command of our family headquarters. Their kitchen window also frames an amazing view of Mount Rainier. This past Easter I noticed it also has a round kitchen table. It held a number of games of Enumclaw rummy that afternoon and hosted a crew of kids at dinner time. I was able to sit at the big table alongside my aunts, uncles, cousins and parents. I even had the chance to carve my own name in the table, but decided against it. It became obvious that the world hadn’t fallen off it’s axle. The axle just moved across the highway.