As I pore over the 130 plus blog posts here, I noticed a bit of a trend: the table is a recurring theme, albeit as a metaphor for my life.
It started with tables at my grandparents’ house, eating sandwiches at one great aunt’s table in my elementary school days, and having yet another provide spectacularly simple lunches as I grew older.
Even when there was no food (a rare occurrence), there was always the ubiquitous cup of brewed coffee. A mainstay, and requirement if you were to be seated at my grandmother’s kitchen table for any length of time.
It was a trend, for sure: wherever I went, I was always provided a seat at the table.
In what seems a lifetime ago, my great aunt Nicolina, and her husband Aldo, always invited me as a Saturday afternoon dinner guest in their home. Seated next to my older cousins, and their children, it was always a treat to be invited to what was sure to be an extended period of great food and lively conversation.
Being a teenager, and then in my 20s, these scenes are now distant memories. But I take time to reflect on them often.
Crafting My Seat at the Table of Life
As that teenager, I can say I was a lot like the modern teens of today: at times filled with anxiety and angst, interrupted by periods of thinking I was headed in the right direction.
My relatives did their best to mold me into the man that could easily take a seat at any table, if he wanted to.
I learned many life lessons from my cousins Nancy and Mike at those Saturday dinner tables. They married young, and stayed married for life. They are one of the models on which my own marriage is built.
Mike’s father, Aldo, was an imposing figure, a well spoken Italian immigrant whose military like tendencies made him one of the sharpest individuals I’ve ever met. He provided lessons on how to speak, carry yourself, and dress like a gentleman: going so far as to bring me back expensive Italian dress shirts from his trips overseas.
My great aunt, Aldo’s wife, is well chronicled throughout this site: she was pure class, taught me manners (especially how a man should treat and respect a woman), and showed me the way to enjoying a good life, no matter how simple and basic the means.
Along with my grandmother, on those Saturdays I was the only person not named “Carucci” at that table. I was always made to feel like a special guest of honor, although I was family. In that amazing dining room, I knew I would always have a seat there, for as long as I wanted.
Withstanding the Storms
Fast forward to 2020, especially the last few months, many of us feel like we not only don’t have a chair: but the table, like a rug beneath it, has been pulled out from under us.
Millions of Americans, and people from around the world, feel the same way: my wife and I included. Between health, financial concerns, and fractured relationships, this year – which held much promise at the outset – feels like a Mike Tyson uppercut striking with laser accuracy at the point of our collective chins.
If you’re out there, and you’re frustrated, anxiety ridden, and more unsure of your future than ever before: you’ve got a friend here. I feel you. Like our former heavyweight champ, 2020 is a barrage that won’t stop coming.
But, if I know you – if we are friends, or blood – I also know this: your foundation is strong. Like my own foundation, built with care at dining room and kitchen tables with individuals that now inhabit my fondest memories, yours has resilience and character. The ability to withstand a storm, and punch back.
Decades ago, in an eerily silent Japanese stadium, a relatively unknown fighter withstood the fury of Tyson, absorbing blows raining from everywhere, wearing him down and waiting for his chance to win.
We can retake our seats at the nation’s table with the same approach: withstand the blows as best you can. Reshape your mental framework into one that believes in a brighter tomorrow, outside forces be damned.
Take the focus off of yourself, if possible, and help others who may be struggling even more mightily.
Talk to someone. Laugh with someone. Cook for somebody. Write an 800 word article to show that you care. 😉
Take your seat, because as a child of God, it is rightfully yours.
As my cherished relatives conveyed to a young man so many years ago: that seat will always be there for the taking.
Dedicated to Nancy Carucci (1955-2020)