Scraps From Kitchen Tables

The best thing about the holidays when I was younger, was the leftovers. The remainder of the meal had, would make me so happy. Thanksgiving was always an event in my family. Especially, at my grandmother’s house.

My grandmother lived in North St. Louis for the first 32 of my 36 years, and most of my Thanksgivings where spent at her kitchen or dining room table. The most interesting thing to remember from these meals is the conversations.

I remember the distinct way my Aunt Linda would cackle and curse, my mother telling my Aunt Ellen to leave her alone about whatever it was brought, and my father telling the story about who got in the family first.

Then there were the conversations we as children were never privy to hear–as always in black families. The double isolation, as it were. The talk of who was sick whom had died, which child would be praised punished and who no longer was speaking…and why. These conversations that are meant to keep ‘kids from being nosy,’ irked my childhood soul–because I was the nosy child.

I was fascinated at the change of tone, the stories relayed and the pace at which replies were echoed or concocted. And when caught listening, I was banished to whatever corner of the house designated for children under 16.

However, in the years since these gatherings, and the growth into my womanhood, I realize how isolated I was…there was wisdom that was spoken among all these sides being served and pie eaten that I could have benefited from.

One of the hardest things to deal with is silence when you know there is sound.

As I was granted entry into this adult realm of dishes and dishing, I was upset. My own things that I had struggled with were conversation, and repeated–without empathy or the benefit of wisdom. When I needed that compassion and wisdom, it was fodder around dressing and sweet potatoes. It was something to be added to the flavor of a meal,and then I was asked by my family ‘why don’t I talk about what is going on with me?’

Why would I?

One of the necessities of speech, is being able to convey, responded to and heard. I wonder now for the sake of ‘keeping kids out of grown people’s conversation’ what real wisdom was lost. I wonder what could have been done to facilitate a semblance of something being okay, or temporary or I don’t know–fixable.

There is a disquiet in information being kept from you for the sake of keeping you out of grown people business. In this new space I occupy, at this new table, new vantage point, I can only sigh and swallow frustration.


This lets me know people can only help you at the level they are at. If they have nothing to offer beyond where they are, they can offer you nothing to help you beyond where you are. The words of healing and hope are not there…

The words we often look for from the mouths of those we love, come in snippets and overheard conversations—inappropriate timing into a room, a too loud phone conversations, in the car during an argument.

It was these pieces we weave our own wisdom around these eavesdropped experiences. We learn to leave when a relationship is horrible, not get married so quick, how important credit is…

In this holiday season, into the new year, don’t devalue what you overhear or ignore what may be unsaid–we need both.

In passing plates, keep your ears open…you may need it later.

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