Apparently most writers have a special place to, you know, write. George Bernard Shaw had a hut that he could rotate so he was always in the sun. Roald Dahl spun his dark humour from an elaborate garden shed. Vita Sackville-West (gal pal of Virginia Woolf) had a pimped-out writing tower in a frickin’ castle.
I have a kitchen table.
I finished my book last week right here at this sucker. It’s just like George Orwell’s writing retreat on the remote Scottish island of Jura except the exact fucking opposite. I am in the eye of the storm, clinging to my laptop and sloshing mug of tea while a tornado of Legos and noodles and wet socks swirls around me. This ain’t no table. It’s a life raft. Hold me.
Everybody laughed at me when I bought it for my galley kitchen where you can’t cook and do the dishes at the same time without getting soap suds in your spaghetti. “It’ll never fit,” they said. “It’s ROUND, for christ’s sake!” First of all, that’s what she said. And second of all, round is perfect.
See, our old table was rectangular. Up against the wall to maximize kitchen space, we’d all sit on the same side, hip to hip, facing in the same direction, eating our soapghetti. We dined like inmates in a prison cafeteria.
Now that the table is round, we can finally see each other’s faces. So THAT’S what you look like when you eat! God you’re gross. But damn I friggin’ love you.
My husband tries not to make eye contact; it might lead to actual conversation – a fate worse than death. But at least now I can see the twinkle in his eye as we watch our kid together.
And I don’t mean kid as in child, I mean kid as in BABY GOAT. That’s what Max chews like. But he’s holding his spoon the right way, finally. His big, brown eyes flick around – thinking, chewing, thinking, chewing. He always tries to finish first, because winning is everything in life. We try to explain to our ambitious little dude that being the first to choke wouldn’t exactly be a victory.
He pouts at something on his plate that he doesn’t want. “That’s yucky!” He folds his arms and slumps back into his chair. Save the drama for your mama, boy. Wait, scratch that, save it for your dad. Which doesn’t rhyme but whatever shut up.
At snack time I sit across the table, enthralled, as I watch him devour a peach. Its sweetness throws his eyes wide open. The juice trickles down his chin. He wipes it with his sleeve, adding to the day’s goop ‘n crud collection there. God I wish I could love a peach like that.
Our dog, Splash, lays her head on my knee. What is this new, cornerless contraption I’ve brought into her house? Which angle would be most effective for begging? Should she hide under the thing and squish her head up between our legs, or should she stay outside the circle and occasionally poke our butts with her nose?
This table is the epicenter of our lives. It’s where the day’s macaroni artwork lands and the Storm Troopers assemble. It’s where the apple juice spills over bills and grocery receipts, and where we discover we can’t slurp noodles and smile at the same time.
Now, I guess it’s also my writing place. Where I finished my first book, distracted and frustrated and chewing my fingernails, and occasionally pressing “save” and closing my laptop to grab a hug, share a popsicle, or have a bout with a Jedi knight in training.
Scholars often look at the external factors that shaped a great writer’s work, including the very space around them. Maybe one day, a zillion years from now, someone will gaze upon this humble table and say, “And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is where the magic happened.” I will never be one of the greats, but this writing spot greatly shapes my work. Because this tornado is my story. Sure, I could lock myself away from the mayhem, retreat to some quiet, dreamy nook. But I’d miss all the best material, and what would I write then…fiction? Om, no. Inspiration is a sneaky devil.
This kitchen table is my castle tower. This is my hut in the sun. And guess what, Mr. Shaw? I can spin this baby around to follow the sun too. So there.
*****This post was previously published on the blog of the Literary Press Group of Canada.