So, I’ve been having this dream.
And in the dream, there’s a long table stretching out under an open sky. The heavens are coated with stars, so many stars that we don’t need to light the ivory tapers that someone twisted into those crystal holders. The table is covered in a white cloth that blows in the summer breeze, and all the people are laughing and carrying on.
I carry pottery heaped high and steaming to that long rectangle in the grass. My hands smell like garlic, and the air smells like lilacs.
I’m not wearing shoes, because I want to feel the grass between my toes when I walk back and forth to the kitchen.
The little boys are burping. Some of the women are dressed in sequined gowns, like they got all gussied for some ball to be held in some marbled room somewhere. Sitting beside them? New friends who came wearing their dirty, threadbare T-shirts with screenprinted sayings like, “Go Wildcats” or “Life is Good.” Someone parked her Mercedes parked next to a rusty Pinto. I nearly trip over a pair of crutches propped up near the head of the table.
And there’s this rich tapestry of faces — in ebony, creamy white, olive, cocoa — and everyone is smiling and carrying on like old friends because all the bad things got made right somehow.
Everyone got invited, and almost everyone came. We had hoped and prayed they would. We had wanted them to taste the feast. And we know for sure that someone had hoped and prayed for us, too.
There was this awareness hanging in the air: It cost someone a lot to make a space for us at the table.
We came with empty pockets, because the Host told us that this was all a gift.
The price of admission? Our hunger.
In the dream, a bunch of us had taped a sign to a barrel and rolled it out to the middle of Main Street: Come One and All! The poor, the lame, the drunk, the rich, the holy. The naughty kid, the valedictorian, the blind guy, the beggar, and the CEO.
There was room for all, and all of us had been waiting our whole lives for this. We didn’t know it until now.
The table seems intimate — like it could fit in the corner of some small diner — yet it stretches for miles because the Host didn’t pick favorites. He wants us all.
When I touch the table, it feels like it has a heartbeat.
From the grass, I watch them come ’round the corner, out by the wizened oaks. Some have tears in their eyes. A guy in a three-piece suit drops to his knees on the sidewalk when he sees a chair with his name on the back of it. An old woman throws back her head and starts singing a song I’ve never heard before, but somehow know all the words. There’s a poem hanging from the branches, and music slides down from the sky. It falls like dew on our skin.
And the fireflies dance around our heads.
I see no masks. No one pretends or tries to prove a thing. We showed up fragile and hungry. We are safe here. We are happy — the fullest happiness we have ever known. Or maybe we had simply forgotten that this kind of happiness was possible, because of all the pain in the busted-up world we’d been living in.
“Bring your mess,” says the banner flapping in the breeze. “Your mess doesn’t disqualify you. It’s your ticket in.”
All of us, we know we are a mess, and when we get to thinking about it, we are astonished at the invitation to a table so sacred. The host lets us help serve the dinner, which floors me. And so we keep bringing out potatoes, and green beans, and filet mignon, and my hands shake a little, at the honor of carrying food to the table.
There is more than enough for everyone.
In the dream, someone clears His throat, and the sound echoes down the table, a hallowed rumble. He says: “Have a seat please.” We all find a place at the table. A holy silence falls around our ears, and then down to our ankles.
Everyone is barefoot, and all the bare feet are under one long table, and that’s the part that makes me cry every time.
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