Each day, life carries us in countless directions. Out into the wild world we go, traveling our various paths. We rush from thing to thing; each objective flowing into the next. The day is filled to overflowing, but still we squeeze in little detours; those tiny tasks that just don’t fit anywhere nicely, but still need to get done. We rush and rush and pray it all falls into place and then we rush some more. As the day winds down and the hurried pace begins to slow, we drag ourselves home and surrender the remainder of our lists to tomorrow. We haul our weary bodies back to that place where all paths intersect: the dinner table.
The dinner table is a commanding piece of furniture. It’s unlike any kitchen table that has ever existed. Many homes have a kitchen and dining table that are actually one and the same, but I believe that the name of the table changes with its function. Kitchen tables are for breakfast and maybe lunch. They’re used for tiny pauses in the day; breaks for nourishment and a very minimum amount of human interaction. Kitchen table chit-chat consists of, “Please pass the sugar”, “Pass the jam” or “Pass the newspaper”. Kitchen tables are quiet places for waking up slowly and thinking ones own thoughts. Having kids makes waking up slowly a lot harder, but even they (kids) understand and pardon the grunts and emaciated conversation of a kitchen table.
Dining tables are the one place in a home where the expectation is community and the goal is connection. It’s a place for conversation, camaraderie and laughter and it’s where a person’s sense of belonging is established. Whether single or married, massively dysfunctional or just moderately; all of us wish for that Norman Rockwell style dining table experience…maybe not for EVERY night, but definitely every now and then.
I am guilty of wanting that image of family closeness. I have a kitchen table that operates the way it’s meant to. I also have a lovely old dining table. We’ve sanded it, painted and stained it. It’s all geared up and ready for monumental mealtime moments. But sadly, I have maladjusted children. I have very sweet, smart, creative and loving kids, who, once seated at a dinner table, mystically deteriorate into bundles of hot air with an intention to annoy. Some nights, just the sight of the dining table makes us grownups feel twitchy.
Just as utter despair was beginning to set in; sure that we’d never experience a lovely family meal, the impossible happened! Last week we had the most amazing family dinner. The food wasn’t anything elegant. We feasted on beirute sandwiches (a Brazilian Smith family classic), but the mood was different. It was special. The kids were loving and sweet. They weren’t competitive or irritable like usual. They enjoyed each other and we enjoyed them!
Half way through the meal, our 2 year old began belting out a string of words that didn’t make much sense. After some careful listening and a little questioning we decoded her little song. The words were, “God raps in style!” She sang with passion and pumped her fist into the air. We were all captivated by the randomness and charm of her tune. And I’m pretty sure that if God were to rap, He would absolutely rap in style.
I’m still filled with love and delight over that family dinner. I’m uncertain when, or if, we’ll be capable of duplicating the beauty of that night, but I finally have hope. I have hope that maybe Normal Rockwell wasn’t painting an entirely unattainable, unrealistic dining experience. I'm confident that it didn’t always look quite as lovely as that painting might lead us to assume, but occasionally it did. And I can be OK with “occasionally”.
Writer and fellow traveler on the road of life.