06 May 2008

The Kids' Table

You all know what I'm talking about. The kids' table was always the fold-up card table with an old, over-washed tablecloth. Your mother or grandmother tried so hard to dress it up but everyone knew it had spent the previous year in the basement, leaning against some lonely wall until the annual family Thanksgiving/Christmas gathering. Until that morning, the table had probably been covered in dust and cobwebs until Grandma wiped it down and covered it with that God-awful 1950s Ozzy and Harriett mess of a tablecloth. Then, the youngest children would be crammed in at said table to eat their holiday dinner. Usually the older teenagers served as temporary babysitters, stop-gaps to keep the little kids from making it into the fancy dining room with the extremely breakable china and parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles dressed to the nines for a dinner that would be consumed in minutes. The teenagers were, of course, biding their time until college when, as 18-year-old freshmen, they could consider themselves adults and ready for the "big" table.

I hated the kids' table. For me, the kids' table was a punishment. It certainly wasn't an escape from the adults, a place to throw mashed potatoes and continue playtime with my cousins. In fact, the kids' table at my grandparents' house wasn't any fun at all. At least, it wasn't fun for me.

Up until age 9, our major holidays were spent with my mother's family: her father, step-mother, sister, brother, nephews, step-sister, and step-nieces. I looked up to my older step-cousin Ann (bear with me - that's her middle name - just trying to be polite with the identities of others) and her younger sister Lynn. Although they lived out in the "boonies" they seemed so much more aware of life and the world around them. Ann was certainly the prettiest of us three, they both wore stylish, preppy clothes, and listened to Blondie, for chrissake. I couldn't compete in the looks, clothes, or music departments, but I loved playing with them. My other cousins, Lee and Alan, were just - strange. Too serious for kids aged 5 and 7 and I felt I could never connect with them. Even four years ago, at the tender age of 29, when Lee died of a drug overdose I couldn't mourn his passing. I didn't know him.

The kids' table was a place out of time for me. The cousins all got along with one another and left me out of most conversations or laughed at what I said. I felt more at ease with the adults - adults who, except for my parents, acted as if speaking with me were an inconvenience. They didn't get me and my adult-speak coming from a 9-year-old larynx was probably disconcerting. I was an honest, intelligent child who got on their nerves.

So, there I sat at the kids' table, too precocious for the other kids, too annoying and young for the adults, at an in-between place that was uncomfortable for all. I wish now there had been a third table, a Heather table, where I could have sat alone with my meal and a book.

I think I would have been happier.

16 comments:

HEATHER said...

My entire childhood people would tell my mother that I was like a miniature adult.
I have always been more comfortable with adults and had a really hard time relating to other kids.

Mr. Fabulous said...

A Heather table?

Geez, it really IS all about you...

Momma said...

That, my dear, is the childhood of an oddball, a misfit. I had that childhood, too, but I don't remember being at the kids table much, only because we often just had the local family over at our house. We had a huge table and no overflow. Else I would have been bumped to the little table where my sister held her tea parties. Ugh.

Guess wheat? You survived it! And you are a delightful adult. They didn't manage to scar you forever, though I'm sure it was uncomfortable at the time.

I'm sorry about your cousin, but I know the feeling. I have many cousins whose names I don't even know. They live in the backwoods of south Georgia, and we're not exactly rubbing elbows all the time. Again, I always feel like an oddball when I do see them. I'm "city folk."

Paul and I are both oddballs, and we have raised two more oddballs who sounded like little adults when they were in grade school. Nothin' wrong with that! :-)

Peace - D

Avitable said...

I hated the kids' table, but now when we do family functions, I prefer it.

MommyCosm said...

As the youngest of all the kids (not counting my half cousin who lived far away) I didn't graduate from the kid's table until I had my own kids.

Our kid's table was kind of fun though because they would always put my uncle there to liven things up. He's a kid at heart.

I'm sorry yours sucked. I would have talked to you if you were at my table. I got along better with the adults too...and always had a book in my hand growing up.

Donna said...

Aw yes, absolutely hated the kids table.

I remember being at some church camp and the other kids asked where I was from and were astounded when I told them from the same area as them. Guess I talked different . . .

Christine said...

My 20 year old asked when he gets to move up to the adult table. Sorry kid, not until one of us dies out and there's an opening.

Not Afraid To Use It said...

Heather, you absolutely pegged it. Too adult for the kids, too immature for adults. Such is the stuff of which my life is made. When do we ever grow out of it? It seems the same categories apply to motherhood. dammit.

And, LOL at Christine's comment.

Gypsy said...

I pretty much fit right in at our kids' table, but the really weird thing about our table was we had a server. I almost wrote "servant," and that might have been more accurate.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. ;)

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

Other Heather - You know, it's amazing to me (and the husband) how many kindred souls there are in the blogverse. I love you already, hon! We need to form the Heathers table! And no Winona Ryder allowed!

Fab - It is, sweetie. It is.

Momma - You know? You and I and these other oddballs should start a blog called "Oddball" - a collaborative effort!

Avitable - As long as the cool people sit there (you, me, Britt), then I'm cool with the kids' table, too!

Mommycosm - Oh, snap! You had to sit there a long time! I need to meet this uncle...

Donna - Dude? That's sad... I would have hung with you.

Christine - LMFAO!!!

NATUI - I don't think we ever grow out of it... thank God!

Gypsy - Seriously? Servant? I'm moving in with your family...

.:| Melissa |:. said...

So, you were one of those precocious little kids that drives me insane?? NAH, I can't imagine that!! You're too cool!! I was always told that I was an "old soul", much more mature than my years, etc. So I do understand that.

I'm sorry your holiday meals sucked, though! Thankfully, I didn't have to live that. If we weren't at the table, we were on the floor! Ha!

Though, now that I'm all grown up, I don't really like our family gatherings.They're extremely tiring! Mentally! There seems to always be a fight of some sort, or someone has to bitch yet AGAIN about their sorry life! (the same story/stories we've heard for the last umpteen years!) UGH

Well, at least Dad isn't drunk anymore!! Guess that's something to be thankful for! *shrugs*

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

Melissa - My friend Chris is an old soul. I just think I'm an annoying soul. :-) I agree that family gatherings tend to get more stressful the older you get. Although Ty-man's family is like friggin' Ozzy and Harriet. The Stepford family - but in a good way!

Ok, Where Was I? said...

I didn't love ours either. I was the only girl with tons of boys. Too many farts and butt talk for a pre-teen girl. Now, of course, is another story.

Chris in Happy Valley said...

I've got to tell you that I have a totally different feeling about the kids table. Truth be told I still try and sneak over to sit at the kids table - always been more comfortable over there. I guess that says something about my maturity, eh?

Teri said...

Their loss for not getting to know you better! You can't pick your family, but you can pick your friends. Smoochies!

We now have three levels of tables – the adults' table, the kids' table (for MY generation), and the kids' kids' table. There is occasionally some intermingling depending on the size of the tables and the number of people and it's never an issue. Of course, this is with "family" not with actual blood-related family. So we're back to that whole picking thing again.

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

OK, Where Was I? - Ewwww, farts at the kids' table. I don't think I would have been able to eat my dinner. Blech!

Chris in Happy Valley - I think that says you're an awesome person who's young at heart! :-)

Teri - OK, now the "older" kids' table? That just sounds awesome! I could do that! :-)