The Table of No Return

I just finished going through the stack of papers that have accumulated since Thursday on the table of no return.  Surely you have one of these–it’s the counter/hutch/bureau/table/drawer where the mail, bills, newspapers, checklists, kids’ drawings, homework, and other stuff that needs your attention goes when you need to clear off the dining room table to eat, or just regain sanity for thirty minutes or so.

There’s a guilty satisfaction in sweeping up all of the papers off of the table and dumping them in a neatly shuffled stack on another hard surface.  They look organized, all tapped into a rectangular packet of Scholastic order forms, Market day, school pictures, and permission slips.  Breathe it in, yes, you are accomplished.  Yes, your dining room table is clutter-free, yes, yes, you can eat without worrying about spilling water and crumbs on your daughter’s homework, and yes, it’s true, you will forget about the forms so strategically arranged on the hutch.

Tonight’s table-of-no-return surfaced a field trip permission slip, a moms and muffins invitation stapled to a book fair flyer, a school pictures order form, an evening event registration form for Lydia, and Lydia’s homework.  And that was just the stuff that needed my immediate attention, never mind three newspapers no one read, coupons I meant to snip and take with me grocery shopping this weekend, a new hotel rewards card for Brandon, fifty sketches of our family in varying colors and sizes, a dozen oversized Handy Manny coloring book pages, papers with L-Y-d-i-a and M-O-M and y y y y y y y y y y y (Lydia needed to practice her y’s), an old invoice for afterschool care, a checking account statement, three unopened envelopes, the Y schedule and the Kroc Center schedule, and a newsletter each from Lydia and Elvis’s schools. 

Since Lydia started school, I have been experiencing minor anxiety attacks each week (i.e. SOCCER! Ah! LUNCH! AH! Pick up Lydia! AH! Soccer pictures! Ah! Library books! Ah! Gym shoes! Ah! Pick up Lydia! Ah! SOCCER! Ah! Soccer! AH! Lydia! AH! Brain! Ah!).  Does this end?  Someone tell me, will there come a day in the next twenty years of our lives where we do not panic that we’ve forgotten some minor yet critical component of our children’s lives?

I should amend that last sentence – where I do not forget some critical component of my children’s lives.  Brandon does not seem to have this problem.  Brandon remembers to pick up his daughter from school and remembers to remind me if I need to pick her up.  Brandon texts me from out of town to pack up the soccer mom van.

People, something needs to be done about the table of no return.  It’s a reflection of the state of affairs in this house, and I’m feeling rumpled up and crinkled around the edges.  Every sheet of paper seems to shout MOM!!! LOOK AT ME!!! WE NEED YOU TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS OR ELSE YOU WILL BE CONDEMNED TO THE OUT-OF-TOUCH PARENT CORNER!!!  ATTEND THIS EVENT!!!  CHAPERONE THIS FIELD TRIP!!!  BUY THESE BOOKS SO YOUR SON’S CLASS GETS MORE BOOKS!!! THEIR FUTURES DEPEND UPON YOU, MOM!!!

Table of no return, it is Sunday night.  You are empty.  The forms that need my attention have been strategically relocated to the coffee table of immediate action, next to my wine glass and a pen.  Let’s get to work.  There are future shelves of no return to fill with extra wallets of a goofy preschooler and a series of Fancy Nancy books.  Better to buy them now than to pay to have them on-loan for all of eternity from the library.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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