As expected, Thanksgiving dinner was quiet and uneventful. The three of us sat around my mom’s kitchen table, decked out in our comfiest clothes, and enjoyed all the traditional goodies. We found ourselves lingering over pie and coffee, reminiscing with smiles about holidays gone by.
It was nice sitting around the table, and I realized once again how much I miss the opportunity to do that. Since the beginning of our empty nest years, we’ve gotten into the habit of eating off trays in front of the television. I don’t like it really, don’t like hauling the food out of the kitchen and into another room, don’t like poking down my meal with my eyes affixed to the 47 inch screen, don’t like the ban on conversation imposed by the need to concentrate on the program.
I’d really like us to be more present at mealtimes, even though it is just the two of us. However, when I’ve broached the subject of eating at the table rather than in front of the TV, I usually get a horrified reaction from my husband. “We can’t watch our programs in there!” his expression says clearly without him even uttering a word.
Of course, my husband doesn’t have good memories of dinner table conversation. In his family, meals were usually an occasion for my father in law to read from his latest right wing political tracts, or share his opinions on all that was going wrong in the world. If my mother in law got a word in edgewise (and she always managed quite a few), it was to complain about something that Jim or his dad was doing. So he’s never been really committed to the whole concept of sitting around the table at mealtimes. (Especially since our table is located in the same kitchen where his childhood mealtimes occurred.)
When we were in Florida last week, our son came over for dinner on a couple of occasions, and we were able to eat outside on the lanai. Whenever this happens, we tend to spend a good long while sitting around the table, talking and catching up on all kinds of things. It’s always pleasant, and lots of laughter goes on. Usually, we learn some things about what’s going on in Brian’s head that we might not otherwise have known. It’s family meal time at its best, and I really crave more of that.
Apparently, I’m not the only one. Laurie David, a documentary producer, has even written a book about it..The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time. According to her research, children who eat with their families get better grades, form better relationships, and are less likely to abuse drugs. “If we don’t sit at the table together,” she asks, “what else are we doing at the same time, other than sleeping?”
While I was shopping last week, a small pub-style kitchen table and chairs caught my eye -the kind with a taller table and matching straight backed chairs. This one even had a dark green marble inlay in the center, which would look rather nice in our kitchen. I’m thinking about asking for this for Christmas, along with the promise to eat a meal at the table every so often. It wouldn’t have to be every day at first, even a couple of times a week might satisfy my craving. Although it would be just the two of us, it could still be nice to sit around the table together and share what’s happened during the day while we share our meal.
Mealtimes are important times ~ a chance to stop in the busy day and take a needed opportunity to fortify our bodies. Perhaps even more important is the opportunity a family dinner affords to enrich our relationships and our souls with some meaningful time together.
A lot can be accomplished just sitting around the table.
How about you? Do you sit around the table at mealtime? or in front of the TV or computer screen? Did you have family dinners growing up? What was it like around your family dinner table?