Sunday, October 2, 2011

Picnic Tables - Memories of my Past, Becoming my Future.

Traveling south on US101 just south of the Oregon border, my husband and I stopped at a roadside pull-off and took out our cooler to sit at a picnic table and share some lunch. The day was cold, it being late December, but we didn't notice the chill so much. Just the sheer beauty of the coastal woodlands we found ourselves immersed in. We were on a grand adventure heading towards the huge towering redwoods of northern California and the city of San Francisco beyond, our first big vacation since marrying. While I have fond memories of all that happened on that trip, it is the stop at the picnic table and the sandwiches we enjoyed that come back to me time and time again.

As a young girl, my family always stopped at picnic table filled waysides to eat while traveling. I loved the novelty of eating outside, family gathered round as we reached into the cooler and brought out food prepared from home. Our hands scrambling to hold plates and napkins down as the wind tugged at everything, threatening to send it all flying up and away. Challenge met as we ate peanut butter sandwiches, stretched our legs and enjoyed the break of a long car ride. Pleasant memories etched into the fabric of my being.

I have read that home is imprinted on children around the age of eight. That the landscape, culture, nature, and place where one resides as a young child forms a bank of memories that can be triggered many years in the future by a scent on the wind, a song on the radio, a view from the car etc...that will send one back to that place of home many years prior. I feel that these home place memories become so etched into who we are that they not only decide what activities we enjoy as we move into our future but also determine which memories we hold dear.

Recently I came across an empty picnic table in the state park near my home and my thoughts turned to the long ago picnic table outside my grandmother's cottage. Suddenly, I was 10 again and sitting beside my cousin as my extended family gathered around to feast on fruit, sandwiches, and buttercream cake put out on the table by my grandmother. I can remember the way the sun glistened on the lake, the way the woodlot beside the cottage smelled as though it was yesterday.

The picnic tables of my youth have become the tables of my future. In a supposed desire to go home again, I continually find myself unconsciously drawn to places that offer picnic tables because those places are where I feel most comfortable, especially after a lifetime of hopping over those wooden planked seats as I drew up to the rustic tables. From campgrounds to parks, all the while imprinting the love of picnic tables onto my own sons, I find myself seeking out picnic tables and have never stopped to consider why I am so drawn to them until now.

I can see now how they tell the story of my long ago past, taking me home again by invoking pleasant memories, but I see too how their comfortable warmth will also take me into my future. The tales those tables tell and will tell. Both of where I have been and also of where I am going.


Grampy said...

I agree that times and places imprint on us in our early years. Picnic tables that are spots where family are close together in the outdoors. Good memory link to pass on to your children. One of mine might be the kitchen table of my grandmothers. It could be why that is where my laptop rests as I type this.


Darcy -- the picnic table is a symbol
for many warm times with family and friends. I have noticed in my travels that the standby picnic table placed along side of roads has disappeared except at rest stops on major highways. I guess some govt official thought McDonald's could substitute for picnic baskets and real family interaction along non-major roads. Great post -- barbara