Yellow is a color I crave. You can’t order up a sunny sky, especially here in Seattle, but you can have a little sunshine always with you if, for example, you own a yellow kitchen table.
When I was growing up, ours was buttercup-yellow formica, flecked with white. Chrome trim and legs. It was where we six kids ate our cereal—Oatmeal, Cheerios, Lucky Charms, depending on the prevailing parental permissiveness or lack thereof. It was where we dunked our after-school graham crackers in glasses of chocolate milk. It was where I sat in the evening, ON the table, my feet on a chair, twisting the cord of the kitchen wall phone as I talked to my friends.
“What are you doing?”
“I don’t know. Nothing. What are you doing?”
A long time ago, I rented a tiny office in Pioneer Square. I needed a desk. When I spotted a yellow formica table, exactly like the one we had when I was a kid, in the window of a thrift store, I bought it right away. For two years, as often as I could, I got myself to that table by my one office window overlooking the Bread of Life Mission and I wrote. A novel. I hadn’t written creatively in a long time. I’d never written a book. But that yellow table gave me courage. On the darkest, most writer-blocked of days, it was always bright. Always gentle and nourishing, like oatmeal on a pitch-black winter morning.
When the office got to be too expensive, I went back to working from home. I took the table with me. But it didn’t fit into my makeshift workspace. So down it went to the laundry room, where it spent fifteen years piled high with laundry baskets and storage bins.
When we moved a few months ago, the yellow table almost got packed off to Goodwill. But our daughter had just found an apartment, and she and her roommates needed something to eat on.
The other day, I walked in to their living room and happiness poured right through me when I saw that glowing yellow formica, front and center under the bay window. I wanted to pull up a chair and dunk some grahams. Or talk on the phone. Or write.
Yellow is so inviting: Sit! Eat! Write! Talk! It says. And it’s so forgiving: we take all comers, it says. The sleepy schoolgirl who needs her cereal, the restless teenager, the unpublished novelist. My daughter and her new roommates, needing somewhere to sit while they get to know each other.
Now, I write at a big, bright cherry-wood Ikea desk. I like it because it has a curve in it and a wide wing I can spread with notes. I like that I can snug it right up to my window.
I’m happy to have once owned a table just like the one I grew up with. I’m proud I sat at it and wrote a novel. Which never did find a publisher. But sitting at that table, writing a whole book, unlocked an important part of me, the creative part: the daydreaming girl I’d left behind at another yellow table.
Such a color, such a table, deserves to be shared. To hold cereal bowls, jokes, secrets, conversations. First drafts of novels, and of lives.
Such a lovely post! I love the idea of a table like one from your past, joining you along your journy only to be passed along to the next generation. A table, yes, but a collection of memories and a canvas for more to come.
Growing up my childhood kitchen was painted a pale yellow and later updated to a more bold vibrant yellow. To this day I associate the color yellow with kitchens and all the activities that happen in that busy room of the house – cooking but so, so much more.
Lovely. It resonates. As a teenager, I was not able to appreciate yellow (except in sunshine and hair) as much as I do now. Having recently moved to an area far from where I called home, where I know only one person, I have re-discovered the importance of having space that feels like mine, with color and space that will help me work. Now all I have to do is start writing again.