Growing up in rural Arkansas, there were three things I could set the clocks by at home long before I understood time on a clock. Breakfast, lunch and dinner meals divided my days.
Family meals were a daily part of our home life. My father, a country doctor, sat with us for three meals a day at the family table. This was a sign of great respect in our household, that Dad came home from rounds, the clinic and the hospital to have meals with us. It made each of us aware that my mother’s meal making and efforts for us were important. She had many roles professionally and personally, yet she made meals together a priority. Holidays especially, began and flourished from the family table. Recipes, dishes and linens all a part of our family traditions.
Weekday meals were simpler in our kitchen, my father at the head of the table. My brothers and I freshly washed from play and waiting with a cloth napkin in our lap for Dad to sit down and meals to begin together.
The tables in my cottage resemble my parent’s home in that there are cloth napkins and linens from my mother’s sewing as well as dishes and serving pieces that were shared from my mother and her mother’s tables. We’re renovating the cottage, so often chaos is around us but the table is an intentional bright spot in that chaos.
Preparing food for our family was intentional in my childhood. It not only set the stage for health in the choices made for our nutrition, but set the stage for conversations, that brought a different kind of nourishing to our lives. We were important was the implication of the intentionality of Dad’s presence and Mom’s effort to daily be present for meals together. When family visited, their gifts in the kitchen were shared as part of the joy of gathering. After meal coffee talks shared for hours.
Daily lives were shared at the table. We listened and shared about our days, our experiences in the community. We heard from our parents important values and were supported by their shepherding our lives. Thanks was given before each meal and for a moment we paused to remember we were connecting to God as a family. Difficult things were shared at the family table as well as celebrations. Milestones were feted and disappointments borne together at the table.
Sundays dinners were in the dining room. China was used and we were dressed from church. Guests often joined us and a dessert was sure to be present to anticipate. These were opportunities for young ones to learn how to converse, to listen and share in conversation and to appreciate a more formal setting.
At the Cottage
In my adult life, what dinner means to me is a space to hold each other dear for a few moments as we gather around the table. It’s a place where phones are set aside, the day’s busy-ness is paused, and we are, for a few moments… a connected family.
Food preparation and cooking is something my daughter and I enjoy. Our time together preparing the meal is unspoken love offerings to those we feed. Whether the meal is from our garden or components purchased locally, we are aware that the ingredients were grown, our own garden efforts remind us that the ingredients precious, not to be taken for granted.
The time together has that same tone, a holy time, not to be wasted. The world spins so fast, days become decades, so we treasure our meals together. Our family is in four states now, we are aware that simply being together is such a privilege. Many years, my husband was deployed in far away countries, we are thankful he is home with us.
Whether a sandwich or a more involved recipe, what dinner really means to me is time with those I love. A quiet in the storms of life. A reset to my days. It is something I do not take for granted. Our time to love folks on this earth is such a short time, I want us all gathered round the tables as often as possible.
It is one of our celebrations of living… savoring the bites and bounty of hospitality shared.