I grew up with a mom who made family dinners a THING. It was not uncommon to have meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans during the week… or roast beef, or roast chicken, or pork and sauerkraut or any other lovely meat-based meal that you can imagine. For years, the beef was from the cattle we raised on our family farm. Through today, her table (and mine) hold the summer’s bounty long through the winter and spring thanks to canning and freezing… peaches, homemade applesauce, green beans… I can remember my mom filling an old glass pie plate (that belonged to her mother) with leftovers for my brothers so they had something to eat after sports practices or away games. I take delight in doing the same thing now, as our oldest dives into the world of sports.
But sitting around the table together, every night, was the goal. It was a staple of my childhood-seeing who could keep their hand on the mashed potato spoon during prayer without getting yelled at (spoiler:not me. I was the youngest, and a girl, which meant that my brothers promised a “pounding” later for trying to win.) We sat next to each other and across from each other and did not always get along, but we always gathered. And every meal, my dad would tell my mom what a wonderful meal it was and he would look at each of us (my sister and my two brothers) and wait for us to tell her the same.
I was reminded of the importance of the family table again tonight… It’s where, after some hard words earlier in the day, my husband gently put his hand on my shoulder and started rubbing my back. The food was all eaten, the plates were pushed back, but the whole family still lingered. Our 11 year old, our 8 year old, our 4 year old… they giggled in their chairs, fought with each other, and finally dispersed to clear the table and put the leftovers in the fridge. It’s not uncommon for my husband to tell my kids, “Girls, your mom makes food most people have to pay for at a restaurant. And we get to eat it every night. She is pretty amazing.” I think it’s because he thinks I’m cute, mostly. But I appreciate the compliment. And my girls kind of roll their eyes and say, “We know, Dad. Thank you, Mom.”
Because we live with and care for my husband’s grandparents, they often sit around our table as well. Age 87 to age 4… everyone needs a place to gather. Everyone needs a place they come back to over and over again, where there is a routine and tradition and it just doesn’t change. I love our little family, and I love our family dinners.