Day Three: An Object That Makes Me Feel At Home

expat blog challege, expat issues

I was thinking of all things snuggly, cuddly, warm, well-worn, and greatly loved, as I plotted the object most fit for this post – “an object that makes me feel at home.” My pillows. The backpack I’ve had since college that’s seen more places than many people. A t-shirt from high school thespian conference that I sleep in. But, no, the thing I settled on is neither soft, nor old (to me), I would not pack it on my travels, and it’s certainly not something I would sleep on, with or near.

The object of my affection is my dining room table.

Partner-in-Crime and I moved to Australia with two suitcases each, so our early days were rather sparse, materially speaking, and, if I’m honest, pretty depressing for me. We went into acquisition mode, though were rather limited by the logistics of the tiny studio-turned-one bedroom apartment we were living in. We still argue about the merits/dismerits of that place, as P-i-C mostly fondly remembers the big window overlooking beautiful Rushcutters Bay. I, on the other hand, pass right over that part, recalling, instead, the single closet, dorm fridge, and the saddest grey carpets you’ve ever seen. We ate on the floor, at first. Then, on our first trip to IKEA, we bought – of all things – a bookcase, which in hindsight is the most comical purchase, considering that we had maybe half a dozen books between us. We had nowhere to sit and nowhere to eat, but darn it if we didn’t have an Expedit. We were also then proud owners of a bookshelf box on which we ate many of our next meals. At one point, I even tried to get crafty and make some cardboard legs for it, but that worked out about as well as you’re probably imagining.
Another trip to IKEA later and we did get a table. We chose it carefully to fit our space under the big window. It was actually a long, narrow work table with six legs, which I stained black. It served us well in that apartment (far better than the cardboard box, so things were looking up), but it was never meant to be a dining room table, just as that apartment was never meant for a couple with increasingly domestic tendencies.
When we moved to Neutral Bay, we had room for a proper dining room table, and in this apartment the IKEA work desk felt out of place. We hunted around and finally found our table at a vintage store in Glebe called Junktique, which is the sort of place where you’re just as likely to walk out with a movie poster from a 70’s porno or a Perry Como vinyl as you are a sofa or table. (We did just get the table, for the record). I loved this table. It had character. It only had five chairs. The salesman told us, “a set of four with a bonus chair!” We took it home.
I don’t know what the wood is, but it has a sort of laminate covering that we keep blemishing. The chairs are just a bit high for my non-petite legs to fit under the table without touching. I don’t care. The special aesthetic feature is the carving on each curvy leg, as well as the chairs. The special non-physical feature is that it is a big, weighty mass of furniture that I picked out myself. When you own a dining room table, you can’t just pack your stuff into two suitcases and hit the road. Owning a dining room table means that you live somewhere, that you have ties, that you need movers and not just a friend with a hatchback. Owning a dining room table is a commitment to a place and a lifestyle.

Meals together as a family are a very high priority to me. Growing up, my family always ate dinner together, and I know every spot and blemish on our dining room table. Every night, we sat together, turned the TV off, talked about our days, the news, what we believed in this world. We kids may not always have wanted to be there, but I can look back and know how that practice shaped me in so many ways. P-i-C and I also made a habit of eating dinner together most nights. Now that Hushpuppy is with us, we have a dinnertime trio and a 6th chair to complete our set. She eats the same meals we do at the same time, and the practice of gathering around our table to talk, connect, and break bread is well established. I cook most nights, and take a lot of pride in creating something healthy and nourishing for us to eat. Every day, we join up, as a family, at this table. This is where we are the most together, the most at home.

Very happy to introduce you to another blog challenger today. Kelli is a dear friend of mine from college who has lived around the world and currently resides in Bahrain with her sweet little family. Pop over to The Homegrown Nomad to read about her super interesting adventures, and I’m not just saying that because I’ve known her since I was 18.

17 thoughts on “Day Three: An Object That Makes Me Feel At Home

  1. Christie

    I love that you chose your dining room table. I’m still struggling with what to pick, so I am procrastinating by reading the posts submitted already! Like yours, my family always ate together around our table when I was growing up. It has been a struggle for me to replicate this with our four busy kids and a husband that works too late for little tummies. However now that our youngest is seven, I am committed to family dinnertime every night. My teen is chafing against it, but I know one day she will appreciate it. Thanks for the encouragement to keep pursuing this great-but-difficult goal.

    1. C. In Oz

      I learned so much about my family, world events, and the values my parents had during those family dinners. I’d say definitely worth continuing to pursue if you can make it happen.

  2. Yvette Niesel

    Our dining room table was passed down to us from my husband’s grandmother. I think she bought it from a Sears catalog in Chicago. There was a matching hutch and (I know this sounds terrible, but… ) thank goodness we didn’t have to take it. The table made the move with us. I know that my husband is grateful for that. He’s actually more attached to things than me.

  3. Samantha

    I love this post! I wish you had a picture of that cardboard table – I’d really like to see that. You’re table now is lovely, and what is more all the lovely memories you are creating! I can’t wait to grow up & get my own place & decorate it myself. I have dreams of rescuing & upcycling some lovely gumtree furniture. 🙂

    1. C. In Oz

      Thanks! Having friends around our table is definitely one of our favorite things.
      I thought I did have one of the cardboard table, actually looked through all my files trying to find it. You’ll have to take my word, it was something to see.

  4. Cosette Paneque

    This is lovely and so true. Our dining table is where we cll come together at the end of the day, where our family and friends sit down for a coffee. Sometimes it’s my office. Sometimes it’s my partner’s photo studio. Such an important part of our home.

  5. Kelli

    First off- thanks for the plug 🙂 Second, I LOVE this! I am still formulating my post but, since the soft, squishy sentimentality factor is also missing from my home, I’m glad to see I’m not the only one. And I think a bookshelf is a very smart first purchase 🙂

  6. Kimberly Pichardo

    Oh, I confess I covet your table, and have lofty dreams of having one specially crafted for us here in Bangladesh….perhaps….if I can bear the thought of another international shipping experience (shudder). Love the table, love the writing, love that we’re doing this and we’re friends (yay!). I did reconsider for the infinitesimally slightest fraction of a second when you shared that you actually attempted cardboard legs for the cardboard-box table….bless your hearts. But nice recover 😉 and beautiful table. You will ship it, won’t you?

    1. C. In Oz

      Doesn’t a cardboard box table sound sort of stage-crafty? And, I think I just figured out why it failed so miserably. 😉
      Yes, I’ve long ago declared that when we move again, there will be a container involved. My days of selling all my stuff and moving with two suitcases are done.
      You really should have the table made; There’s just something so weighty and “home” about a great table.

  7. April

    We went for about 12 months eating on our couch because our 30 year old+ dining room suit was no longer functional and the chairs were painful. I think a meal at the table together is one of the most important things a family can do together. Too many people skip that important thing!

  8. Suhanna S

    Your dining table definitely has character. I’m curious now to know how the bookshelf box looks like 😉 When we first moved to Toronto, we didn’t bring any dinnerware with us so on our first week, we ate all our meals in Tupperware boxes. Haha that was definitely an experience.

  9. Pearl Maple

    That is a lovely story behind your table and the adventures of settling into a new community, think most expats have had a cardboard box dining experience or two.

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