Writer, photographer, "rapper" and general technophobe takes on the internet in what could be a very, very messy fight. But it's alright: she's harder than she looks, and she's wearing every single ring she could get her hands on.


Wednesday, 6 May 2009

The Little Table

'You're sitting on the little table,' my Grandad said when I marched into his 80th birthday party last weekend and asked where my mini name card was. He pointed to a table which was the same size as the other table and perfectly acceptable, as tables go; which was a relief, because in the past The Little Table has sometimes been a little too small, frankly. Especially when it was made of red plastic and there was only two of us.

'I'm still on the little table?' I moaned. 
'The little table's for the little ones,' my Grandad pointed out reasonably. 'That's how it goes.'
'Little ones now ranging from ten years old to thirty,' I clarified. I said it loudly enough for my eldest cousin to hear the word thirty. She visibly flinched, even though she had no idea what we were talking about; she takes being the eldest personally.
'I'm afraid you'll always be the little ones,' Grandad said, 'no matter how big you get.'
So I took myself to The Little Table and plonked myself down to consider the situation. 

When I was little enough to warrant a separate table because I couldn't reach the big one (or I could, but it would be generally regretted afterwards as I'd inevitably lunge for something red and sticky and then throw it around the room), The Big Table had a faint air of mystery about it. Adults sat there. My parents sat there. My great-grandparents sat there. Plus it was ridiculously large: the roast potatoes had to make some kind of Tolkeinesque journey just to get from one end to the other. I was therefore quite happy to sit on my mini-table with my elder cousin, because the tea never ran out (it was invisible), the service was impeccable (it was me, with a drying-up-cloth draped over my arm) and the guests were very polite (the teddies, obviously. Not my cousin. She's French). Eventually my other cousin joined us, and then my sister - and, after a large gap - two younger cousins, who we duly told not to touch anything or they'd be in trouble.

As I sat on The Little Table last weekend, I noticed that it was growing. Not only was it a fully grown up sized table now - and we had staff that weren't teddy bears - but there were more people on it than had ever been on it before, as boyfriends were starting to join us. And, I realised suddenly, it was going to keep growing. Eventually some poor soul might be persuaded to take the seat next to me and - probably not very long after - somebody would marry the ten year old. We would have our own little ones. The Little Table would grow, and - eventually, inevitably - the Big Table would start to get smaller.

And, just like that, I realised that I was in no hurry to leave The Little Table. I was in no hurry to stop being a Little One. On The Little Table, you see, you're safe, because there's always a Big Table to look after you. And this weekend only made me realise just how much I love it being there. And just how much I still need it.

At the end of the meal, Grandad stood up to make a speech: a speech that managed to navigate the diverse waters of off meat, fleas and vandalism with a great deal of dignity. By the end of it, at least half of the family was crying, although I was not one of them.

A fact that I think my Grandad noticed, because he promptly reached into his pocket and pulled out a crumpled up piece of paper.
'I've had this for nearly fifteen years,' he said. 'Holly gave it to me, and I've kept it ever since. It's a quote from Emily Dickinson, which has meant everything to me.' And then he looked directly at me. '"We turn not older with years,"' he said quietly, '"but newer with each day."'

At which point I burst into tears. 

'Grandad?' I said, after I had straightened my face out and the rest of the family had started heading towards the bar downstairs. 'Do you think I'll stop being a little one when I have little ones of my own?'
'No,' he said, grinning at me. 'You'll still be a little one. They'll just be even littler.'

Which means, I guess, that we'll just have to get a smaller table.