Recently, we added a new room on our house and redid the kitchen. I LOVE it. My father in law built us this beautiful table that we hardly ever use for what it is intended for, which is to eat dinner as a family.
When we were talking about building it the wife and I argued over what it should be used as. I wanted it to be a family room, couches and tv and comfort. The wife wanted it to be an extension of our kitchen because in our old space we never had a real kitchen table. We ate off those tv trays you might see at Thanksgiving for years. As you know how most of these stories go, the wife was the winner. The room looks and feels perfect.
The table is set and ready for us to use it. We will occasionally have a few friends over for drinks and the table is perfect. Once every other week or so, my wife, two kids and I will sit down for a meal together. With their schedules and us working we all sort of just pass by each other every day.
The table waits for us.
At my parents’ house they have a similar table. They lived close to the same life. As kids, my brother, my parents and I had dinner together almost every night, but as we got older and got into more things, those meals changed. We were doing exactly what my family is doing now. Eating something quick and running out the door to the next thing.
My parents though started Sunday dinner when I went to college. Every Sunday my parents would cook WAY WAY too much food and if you were around you were always invited/expected for dinner. We would sit and talk about the last week or whatever was important in our lives. A real FAMILY dinner. I would watch my Dad finish folding my clothes and I would head back to school on Sunday and repeat this for almost all four years in college.
As the years have gone on, we have added many members of our tribe to this tradition. My wife was the first one in. She has been around since the beginning of these dinners. Then we had our first daughter, the first granddaughter to these events. The meals would transition to whatever the newest child diet was. For years my parents would make a regular meal and then a grilled cheese for one of my maniacs. Even now, when we have something with pasta, my parents also make a side of pasta with just butter so that when inevitably one of the kids complains about the food there is a backup for them to eat. Before long we added another beautiful little daughter to the tribe. My sister added a tribe member a couple years ago; my brother got married and recently had a beautiful baby girl who experienced her first Sunday dinner this past weekend. Occasionally we will have a more guests with my Uncle living so close and with my favorite Auntie Kathy stopping by. Sunday dinners in my house are probably similar to a Thanksgiving Day for most families.
The meals are an excuse to just check back in. We all live crazy lives and they get crazier by the day. People rotate in and out of these Sunday meals. With new members of the tribe brings more reasons to miss a Sunday meal. There isn’t an attendance requirement for the meals. You make what you can, and you don’t feel bad when life pulls you in a different direction. There are meals I love, there are meals I hate, but the food really has nothing to do with it. As my Dad would tell me when I would complain about the food “Whatever it is, it is free” to get me to shut up. When my wife mentions something to try or something she liked my parents will make it, just as they did this past Sunday with a ricotta and fig pizza appetizer.
Now, there are not enough chairs at the table. We have to bring a few chairs from the basement up just so everyone has a seat the table. It is crowded with the people you love. It is crowded with the people who get you, crowded with kids who will grow up and hopefully will continue this tradition.
Just as we will. The table is waiting for us. The chairs are excited for the days where they will be a fight over who gets to sit in them and who has to sit in the crappy basement chair with no cushion on it. Many years from now I will hopefully be sitting with new members of the tribe. People my kids will love, people that make us smile, people that won’t mind how bad of a cook I am.
Feed your tribe and they will grow.