A round, off- white Formica table with a leaf that extended the table to an oval every evening for dinner, removed after to close again to its smaller size. That is what my parents did. That is how they raised us. Give you a speck of room to expand, slam it shut. Make you smaller. Not enough chairs for all of us. A piano bench brought in every evening so I, and whoever, usually my sister Jo, could have a place to sit. Again, that seating removed every evening when whosever turn it was to load the dishwasher had to clean up after we had eaten. That Formica table. Small as it was, trying hard to look bigger once in a while. Fourteen elbows, fighting for seconds of mashed potatoes, inhaling unappealing vegetables to get a chance before someone else ate faster. A bowl of home-jarred peaches I spilled. My dad’s words that made my face hot and throat close up so any seconds of potatoes are a thing of the past. Don’t cry, or the Formica table gets smaller. Smaller and smaller until it might disappear.

Erica Lemley is a work in progress. She writes to clear her mind of clutter that pops up throughout the day, usually while listening to country music lyrics. A mother and grandmother and yellow-lab owner, born on the west coast, living on the east.

You can see more of her work in 1.3