We have spent days helping to clear the little farmhouse on the hill. Chattels and wares have been draining from it for days, one car-load at a time, the parting painfully long.

It has been a lighthouse, a thin three-story beacon of family, open to life and the elements, isolated, one step away from the village with blissful views of the valley: a kind place because Marta made it so. In truth it is not so small, but rather a puzzle of small spaces and narrow stairs and doorways, of an age and piecemeal evolution before conformity and regulation. Characterful if not so pretty.

What mattered, as always, was the heart, and yet despite clearing everything else the heart was still stuck there.

Marta, children now grown, is uprooting to a more manageable, new space in the village so she can care more ably for her poorly husband. The fulfilments of their little farm home, where we and other close friends have shared so many moments with the family, could not be reconciled with the greater challenges that come to us all.

So there it sat, locked in, Marta’s table, the last piece of furniture now absurdly isolated with all other threads of the family tapestry pulled out. It could not leave because, during the 25-year-long evolution of their home, a new, narrower front door and frame had been bricked in. Marta, somehow, was trying to come to terms with the thought she must abandon it.

It weighed on all of us.

Tables mean so much, are more important than all. It is the piece of our lives, frankly, beyond value, the human race’s answer to the collective sorry messes and disharmonies of today. Hidden in plain sight, we forsake this essential focus for family, community, sharing, laughter, reconciliation, goodness and fundamental wellbeing at our peril.

A Syrian family being shown into a bare, clean and safe space, a refuge, a new beginning in a new land, being asked what they needed most of all replied without hesitation “table”.

I tried to dismantle Marta’s hefty table, but the old metal fixings were torn and the screwdriver would not hold. We tried to manoeuvre it through the maze towards the wider exit from the workshop at the back of the house, but the last narrow doorway defeated us. For a while the table sat wedged on its side.

All the downstairs windows have bars, so that was that.

Or was it? Could we get it upstairs?

After the long and steady flow of possessions down the steps there we were, with the last of all, the heaviest, heaving it up. It eventually arrived on the landing with less than a millimetre to spare.

We unbolted the old double door on to the balcony above the porch, roped the table and lowered it down into the garden.

The heart now beats again in the new home.

Cherish our tables. Given them, ourselves and each other time. Free of devices. Share. It is the way.

Happy Christmas .

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