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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Bare Naked

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Originally published November 27, 2009

Reprinted with permission from Bay Area News Group – East Bay

It doesn’t look right to see my dining table dressed-up in a tablecloth on Thanksgiving. During the rest of the year, the table’s bare, allowing my family to use it for everything but formal meals. For us, the dining table is like a sunbather on a clothing-optional beach, best-suited to a lifestyle that ignores convention. When it’s naked, stripped of all pretensions, there are no limits to what it can be.

For instance, the table can be a forest in a topsy-turvy world of Lego’s when my son plays on it. Rumbling down the center of the table is a Lego dragon. Flanking the dragon, I see a dog, a boat, and a structure with unlikely angles that brings to mind architect Frank Gehry, all constructed out of Lego’s. Suddenly, a Lego fire truck with siren blaring comes tearing through. The whole scene makes about as much sense to me as preparing sweet potatoes with marshmallows as some people do on Thanksgiving.

The dining table is a playground of another kind when my family uses it to for board games. Holding “The Game of Life”, the table becomes a crystal ball showing me just how my youngest daughter’s life turns out: she chooses not to go college, becomes an entertainer, and has four children. Along the way, she neglects to buy homeowner’s insurance, loses everything in a stock market crash, and has a mid-life crisis. I can be especially grateful this Thanksgiving that the future is still a long way off.

When I use the table for sewing projects, it’s a real stretch, because I’m not much of a sewer. However, when I want to pin-up pants for shortening, I lay them out on the table, in an effort to be as precise as possible in my measurements. No matter how much care I take, I usually find that one leg is slightly shorter than the other after I finished sewing. Maybe that’s why I always choose to wear skirts on Thanksgiving.

Occasionally, the dining table can even take me out of my own life, as it did recently, when my teenage daughter laid out a school project on the table. While studying Africa in history class, she was required to create an original map of Africa. She wanted to show that contemporary Africa is more than the prevailing Western stereotypes of poverty and political strife, by using examples of recent economic development and diversity.

So, my daughter created an enormous collage in the shape of the African continent with glossy color photos from books and magazines about Africa that showed runway fashion shows, high-spirited school children, and flamboyant musicians. Then, she interspersed black-and-white photos of Africa depicting more familiar images, such as hungry children, despairing mothers and soldiers bearing guns.

Sitting at the dining table right now, it’s fitting to think about the lives of others. It allows yet another opportunity for my whole family to express thanks for our abundant good fortune. At the same time, we can wish for everyone what we enjoy on Thanksgiving: the comfort of food and family safely gathered around.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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