Friday, March 8, 2013

Moments of Joy - Family Dining

Yesterday was a weekday, Thursday to be precise.  Who did I have lunch with?  My wonderful husband and my two beautiful daughters.  Since my husband works out of his home office most days of the week we often have lunch together, but since both of my girls were recovering from illness, they were both home too.  As we tucked into our sandwiches I looked around and my heart swelled a little.  This is the life, I tell you!  I love mealtime together, and it is something we usually do for every meal.  Taking the time to eat together is something that brings me great joy.  I started writing this post, but realized I had written it before on an old blog.  Here it is again for your reading pleasure.

Meals were always an event growing up.  In our tiny Amsterdam home, the table was located smack-dab in the middle of the living room   Pushed towards the wall when not in use, pulled out when needed, the first order of business was always the tablecloth.  The table was already covered in a couple of tablecloths - some sort of oilcloth to protect the table and then covered with a woven cloth with awesome tassels for style.  I love playing with those tassels and if I close my eyes I can still feel them in my fingers.

At mealtime, a cotton cloth would be placed over top of the cloths already on the table.  I remember the table always being soft from the layers of tablecloths.  There was a superstition associated with a clean tablecloth.  A fresh-from-the-wash cloth would inevitably get dirty the first time in use - a gravy drip or a pudding slop.  Then my mother would say that she wouldn't wash it for just one spill and that she intended to wait until it got good and dirty before washing it again.  Of course, nothing would spill on it again and finally it would just get washed anyways.  A clean cloth would be broken out and the first time in use - a spill!

We always ate together at the table.  That was the very important ritual at our house.  We ate family style with plates of bread and toppings at breakfast and lunchtime, bowls of steaming hot food at dinner time.  It made for lots of family time, talking, laughing and enjoying each other.  Oh, the life lessons we learned there!

We did occasionally eat lunch away from the table.  My mom would ask if we wanted "camping bread".  That question was always met with a resounding "yes!" and off she would go to break out that special kind of bread.  Open-faced sandwiches would appear on plates and we would sit in the living room, right beside the dining table (!) and enjoy that incredibly delicious lunch, tasting so much better than when we ate at the table.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered "camping bread" wasn't a special recipe baked up by the baker, just regular bread eaten on our laps!  In the innocence of youth, it was a mystery why it tasted so much better!

Eating at the table for each meal didn't end until my husband and I moved into our first apartment.  We brought a bunch of hand-me-downs with us, including an old table, but I think we ate at it twice and after about a year we got rid of the table.  Our apartment also had a bar that we could have eaten at, we didn't do that even once!  We lived like students, well, I was one, and ate all our meals on our laps.  For five years!  We never invited anyone to dinner because there was no place to eat once we got rid of the table.

One of my greatest joys when we moved into our first house was the delivery of our newly purchased dining room table.   We visited many, many stores, but eventually settled on a beautiful solid maple table with six chairs (I wish I could have justified more chairs and a sideboard, but alas...).  That was 17 years ago and we still have and use that table every day.  For every meal.  The four of us gather and eat together.  We try to wait until everyone is sitting to start eating (sometimes that is hard if you are really, really hungry!)  I have had many happy moments of joy sharing meals at the table with family and friends.  I hope to have many more!

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