Mama Kat certainly has a way of begging bittersweet memories lately.
This week I am answering about my favorite place to eat as a child.
This fresh hell, on the heels of so much reflecting on legacy and empty nests.
I cannot help but wonder how my own children will remember our family meals,
whether any of our tables and traditions over the years
will ever slip into focus as "favorite,"
but that's not the question today.
Growing up, as I may have already mentioned, Mom & Dad made regular family dinners a priority. We encircled our solid wood dining room table every single night. Dad sat in the same chair for most of my childhood, maybe all of it until he became a Grandpa, a turning point for so many wonderful and hilarious reasons.
Before eating, we always prayed as a family. During Advent and Lent we lit candles and took turns reading from devotional books. From time to time Mom would have a new baby for us to call brother or sister, and that baby always sat in the world's most beautiful carved wooden high chair with an over-your-head table tray. Many a bowl of marinara sauce spaghetti has been painted onto that high chair.
We ate delicious, healthy meals, often crafted from leftovers, and we drank whole milk, never soda or even tea. To this I feel we all owe our basically admirable eating habits. Basically. More or less.
This family dinner business was not negotiable, unless we chose to watch a VHS tape or a laser disk movie together, as a complete family. Also, those movie dinners were always on the weekend, never a school night, and they provided me a whole other happy chapter of childhood.
As adolescence approached I gradually became aware that our family was unique among my friends, that most people ate fast food and drank unlimited quantities of soda and did so in front of televisions. In their own rooms. For a season I was rude about it to my sweet, steady parents. It was several years before I appreciated how much effort this daily ritual required and even longer before I glimpsed the investment Mom and Dad were making into our hearts, night after night and year after year.
Thankfully our family still gathers at home for dinners now and then, though of course now the crowd is significantly larger. I suppose we could separate into smaller groups throughout the house, but we never do. We just keep adding chairs and squeezing in on Dad's handmade wooden bench until everyone is wedged in front of a skinny piece of table real estate and our silverware is overlapping.
We are loud and silly, but manners are paramount. More or less. We pass food to and fro. We use cloth napkins and Mom's colorful collection of plates. We give small, pretty plates to the kids and try to help them eat what they don't want so nobody gets in trouble.
With this larger family crowd we all know that whoever chooses to sit in the chair nearest the kitchen will inevitably be asked to go fetch just one more thing, approximately nineteen thousand times per meal, so we all flood the furthest posts first.
Once again I look around at my adult friends and realize how blessed I am to have this gift in my life, this dinner table, these loving parents who are always eager to feed us. Not many people my age still get to eat in their childhood home, at the same beautiful table, with both of their parents and all of their siblings.
It was so easy to pick my favorite.