Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Doing it Old-School

Aren't they just the happiest?
It's not very likely that you will ever find me baking cookies for an after-school snack while wearing pearls and full make-up, but I do share some things with June Cleaver. The biggest one is that we still have sit-down family dinners most nights of the week.

It's a tradition that Steve and I have held since our dating days. The priest who married us (at our second ceremony) wrote that one of the defining elements of "family" was eating together. It struck a chord with us as university students because we had come to feel that our housemates were indeed family. Conversely, those housemates who were never around for meals never felt like part of the family.

In fact, part of how I knew my fatigue last fall was more than just being overworked was that I was often too tired to come down and join the family for dinner. I needed a little "bed rest" between when I got home and when I joined the conversation.

Even when I was downstairs, I was often too tired to "bother with" getting dinner going if Emily hadn't already started it. So I'd suggest we all just scrounge leftovers, and then we would all eat at the couches, watching TV or surfing on our laptops.

Not good. Not good at all.

Now that I'm home and feeling much better, I've come to value dinnertime again -- to the point that I get upset if one of the members of our household doesn't join us.

It's the one time in the day when we are all conversing. We get to know each other a little better as our quirky conversations play out. The other night, Emily posted this on Facebook.

It had been a truly humorous mealtime. Some sample exchanges:
Mom [in surprise, to Emily who seemed to appear out of nowhere]: Where did you come from?
Emily [puzzled]: I don't know. Your uterus about 21 years ago? 
Emily [to Mom and Brian who sit across from each other at the table and were practicing annoying each other]: Do I need to separate you two?
Mom: No! I should sit closer to Brian! [Moves to seat next to his.] Then I won't have to look at the picture that he keeps tilting crooked.
Brian [with warning in his voice]: Mom. I swear, I will tilt every single glass in that china cabinet at a slightly different angle. [He knows my OCD.]
Mom: [Stays put. Tries to make a witty comeback, but fails because: words.]

In case you're curious, here is the tilted picture. I usually sit directly across from it, with Brian sitting directly in front of it. I have given up straightening it as he invariably re-tilts it before sitting down. (I couldn't get a picture with both in focus. The chandelier is perfectly level.)

It's crooked, dammit!
I won't lie: sometimes family dinnertime can be a little fraught. [Isn't "fraught" a good word? I think people should use it more often.] If one person is having a bad day (or even just a bad moment) it can send things skittering off the rails, sometimes ending with someone storming away from the table.

It's never as bad as it was in my childhood home (there were frequently thrown objects, including knives).

It's not great when tempers flare. But we're human and as long as things remain civil, I feel like this is part of how we learn and forgive. And I believe that, in the end, it's absolutely worth it.


  1. Sitting down to a family dinner has always been important to me and Jason as well, even before kids. Incidentally, it was also a habit among my housemates in university, too! There were 5 of us and 5 weekdays, so we'd each take a weekday and cook, then eat together. I loved it! (As a Christmas gift one year I gave them a cookbook of our many shared recipes). I'm sure our family has plenty of sitcom-worthy meals ahead. I look forward to it!

    1. I expect your parents had the same habit. :)


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