I see my life in pictures. When I recall an event, a moment, even a conversation, I see an album or video in my head of my surroundings. Particularly vivid are places I’ve lived. I can picture each of these dwellings in great detail.
My first apartment had a large kitchen area with windows and a balcony overlooking a park. The counter spanned the length of the room, offering plenty of space to collect mail and miscellaneous papers. I mostly used this area for cooking frozen pizzas. Shame. One time my hamster chased the cat into the corner where counter met wall. Poor Pete’s hind legs were inching up the wall as he was crying to me for help, trying desperately to escape tiny Mr. Ip in his rolling cage.
I rented a tiny house with a big living room, a scary basement, and mushrooms growing around the toilet. Rather than doing laundry in the basement, I hauled my dirty clothes across town to the laundromat or the in-law’s. In this kitchen I learned how to cook chicken fried steak, chicken tetrazzini, and a whole bunch of other things involving chicken.
My most vivid memories of my second apartment were of the couch, where I was sitting when I learned that my best friend had been killed in a car accident and that my grandfather had died of cancer. That sofa was also where I spent most of the time between those two sad events grieving and ill with a stomach virus.
What I can’t remember from any of these places was a dining area. Why is it that I can see a mental image of myself flipping through recipes and even cooking, but I cannot picture a single time that I sat down to eat? I think the reason is as simple as this: I didn’t have a dining set.
In early spring of 2000 I moved into my first “real” home. Next door to my new house was an antique shop. And an ice cream parlor, but that’s a different story. At the back of the antique store was a dark wood table and a set of chairs to match. Well, they matched well enough anyway. Buying a dining set felt like such a mature, grown-up thing to do. Even more so than buying the house they would go in. So the table and chairs were purchased and one by one carried up the block through the snow to home.
My chairs have seen better days. Of course, they’ve been with me for 13 years now. They survived two moves, four cats, and one 9-year-old boy. Battle scars can be expected. Their nicks and worn paint are less noticeable now thanks to the many food and marker stains. These scars are only visible when I look at the chair as a chair. Aesthetically pleasing, not so much. But what I actually see is my first time hosting Thanksgiving dinner. Having dinner and drinks with friends. Assembling a pizza with then 2-year-old Will. A romantic candlelit New Years Eve dinner for two. Drawing, crafting, making play-doh aliens with the boys.
I see my life in beautiful pictures.