Around the Table

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?



14 thoughts on “Around the Table

  1. I like your idea– what a great Christmas present for yourself. Right now, we’re trying to teach our 4-year-old to sit down and eat with us… I didn’t force it when he was younger, but now that he has a little brother, we’re making family mealtimes more of a priority. I personally don’t think it needs to happen every evening– sometimes eating in front of the TV is fun. When I was growing up, we mixed it up. Now, I like to treat our “dinner table” meals as special occasions… lighting candles helps balance out the rowdy children. 🙂

    • It’s nice to have a dining room to use for special dinners. We had one (until my husband turned it into his home office). When my son was small, he got a kick out of setting the “fancy table” and lighting candles 🙂

  2. 🙂 Yep, I could totally understand why Jim doesn’t like sitting down at the table. Maybe a change of decor will switch up the scene just enough to welcome him back to doing so.
    Growing up, we always had dinner at 6 at our eat in kitchen table. (The dining room table was for holidays only!) My siblings and I sat there every night with mom & dad (if he wasn’t working).
    This eating together habit stuck with me, and now I have a kitchen table where we sit down every night at 6 ( hubby/dad joins us if he’s not working!) – the dining room table is off limits unless it’s a holiday. My mother finds this set up to be hilarious!!

    • Sounds like you have a nice dinner time routine going on there 🙂 My husband always worked long hours when Brian was small and rarely made it home at a decent dinner time. Now he’s home most every day, so we can finally have a regular dinner hour!

  3. We always ate at the kitchen table when my son was still living at home and the dining room table on holidays. We never ate in front of the television. Our situation is more like yours now.

  4. We always ate dinner as a family when I was growing up – sometimes Dad had to be out of town for a meeting and it would just be mom and I, but still we took the time.

    We had a setup I’ve never seen, although it must be common. There was a bar between the kitchen and dining room, and on the kitchen side there was a pull-out table we used for most meals. With only three in the family it was the right size, and you could slide it back in when done. It was cozy, and nice. The dining room was for Sundays and holidys, and of course there were more people to feed then.

    Before I started eating with Mom every night, my home meals sometimes would be in front of the tv – never at the computer. I just can’t bring myself to eat at the sink like some of my friends do – that’s downright uncivilized.

    But the best times were in Liberia. Dinner table conversation there was our entertainment, and it was wonderful. Never mind television – we didn’t have electricity at night, so neighbors ate with neighbors, and the conversation flowed.

    • Wow, you’ve had some interesting dining rituals. I’m fascinated by the pull out table – sort of a Murphy bed version of dining tables??

      And Liberia? Whenever did you live there? Certainly in those circumstances, dining would be the evening entertainment, wouldn’t it?

  5. Oh – I forget who knows what. I was there in the mid-seventies, doing public health work – maternal/child health clinics upcountry, and a little light teaching and such. I was there for four years – some fascinating experiences, including walking back into bush villages where none of the kids had seen a white woman.

    That was the period I did most of my European traveling – we got a month every Christmas, and cheap flights were available because a German mining consortium would fly relatives into the country for the holidays, and made seats available rather than deadheading on two flights.

    I traveled for six weeks overland after leaving, up through west and north Africa, and then went back in the mid-80s for six weeks to see how things were, post-coup. I might go back now, but things are still pretty unsettled after the civil war, which was ghastly.

    And yes – now that you mention it, a Murphy bed’s a perfect analogy.
    Imagine the bar. On the kitchen side imagine three drawers first, for silverware and such, then the pull-out table, topped with the same formica as the kitchen counters and about four inches thick, and then cabinets and drawers beneath. It was great!

  6. My first choice is usually to eat at the dining table, but it doesn’t happen often. Too often we eat in the family room while watching t.v. – it’s a terrible thing to admit. Part of the problem is our screwy work schedules. Dinner time wasn’t so happy when I was growing up, so it seems important to make it more pleasant now. I’d love to set the table and linger over dinner every night. Maybe when we retire.

  7. What a terrific idea — the table! I know what you mean about sitting around the dinner table. Seems like it was the only time we heard what was really happening with the kids. Some of my favorite memories are those long conversations sitting at the table up at the lake with the cousins — glass of wine or soda, a sunset in the offing. I still love it. I’m glad you got that over the holiday. Good luck with the table!

  8. I’ve eaten at a dinner or kitchen table all my life. Only when I’m alone at home I dare to sneak a plate in front of the tv although I feel guilty about that and I really don’t enjoy the food itself so much if you’re absorbed with a screen. I must admit though that we do eat at the table but the tv is on a bit further (not right next to us) so we do keep half an eye on the tv.

    If you eat together a meal at the tabel I do believe you get to know more about what’s going on in each other’s life and you enjoy the food more (and maybe get to chew more properly which is beneficial to the digestion).

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