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Hartselle Enquirer
Jacob Hatcher

The family table

By Jacob Hatcher

Community Columnist

In our garage, next to baby boxes and lawn equipment, sits a very important heirloom. It’s not fancy, or even expensive, but it’s one of the most valuable things I own. It’s the kind of thing that gets built on HGTV every hour in a fancy wood shop with reclaimed wood.

This one, though, wasn’t built on a soundstage with a crew of people standing around. This was built by one of my ancestors more than 100 years ago. It’s traveled across three states and has been an audience to volumes of stories old and new. It’s been beaten up and repaired, but still stands strong today.

It used to sit in my Nana’s kitchen, where we would eat breakfast every morning. The alarm clock at her house was the smell of bacon in the skillet and biscuits in the oven. She truly enjoyed making a big breakfast, but mostly she knew we needed the calories, because Pop Tarts and chocolate milk won’t sustain a ten-year-old swinging a pickaxe in the Alabama sun.

On Sundays, it held feasts of roast, home grown vegetables and chocolate chess pie. The family would gather at her house after church and gorge ourselves on the same food that had been served off of that table for generations, then we’d tell stories until we couldn’t stand it anymore. Then we’d gather back around for dessert after some backyard football.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were on a road trip and passed Hawk Pride Mountain, where so many meals were served at this table. As we approached, my heart began to leap in my chest like John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s belly.

I know it sounds crazy, but for just a split second, I could have sworn that if we had turned up that road, she’d be standing on the porch when we got there. I could smell the okra frying in the skillet and taste the cornbread. And maybe it was the radio, but I’m pretty sure I heard generations of laughter rushing down that mountain like an avalanche of memories.