That first meal can be a little awkward because it’s not something family schedules always allow, according to Bradley Initiative for Church and Community’s Transitions program director Kerri Clouse.
While it didn’t always happen, an effort was made when I was growing up to eat dinner together. Often we would listen to Focus on the Family’s “Adventures in Odyssey” as we ate. We would talk about our day or about the story we were listening to. Deals were made as I tried to bargain for more pizza or another hot dog without eating all my vegetables.
Tacos were always a favorite meal.
Many my age and younger don’t have such memories.
Family meals hold many of my happy memories, whether at my parents’ home, my grandparents or at restaurants.
When I was in elementary school, my grandmother baked a cake for nearly every holiday.
She would always have macaroni and cheese or Spaghetti Os for me and my sister, in case we didn’t like the meal she had cooked ... although most of the time we did. Her salads were amazing. Every other salad my family ate was compared to my grandmother’s salad. Lettuce, feta cheese, olives, lunchmeat, etc. made it easily a favorite.
My first tastes of gumdrops, Dunkaroos and strawberry waffle cookies were experienced around her table.
When we all would get together, my dad, grandfather and uncle would cut up and laugh. Sometimes the jokes took them to the kitchen to howl while the rest of us were left to wonder what was so funny.
Uno was a popular fixture on their table when I was old enough to play.
My uncle often brought a friend or girlfriend to these family dinners. A few I still remember because they played with me, pretended to eat my Lego food and got “down on my level.”
I think there was even a time I did homework at her table.
My parents’ table saw many schoolbooks and craft projects in addition to meals. It was at this table my mom began teaching me to write and to read before I went to school. The table was stained with paint and glitter before my parents replaced it. There were food-coloring stains from when Mom taught us how to make popcorn balls. It had been covered with sprinkles and flour as we made Christmas cookies. It was at this kitchen my first cooking experiences were served.
Restaurants have also played host to family meals. I found out my parents had paid off my car when we all went out to eat to celebrate my college graduation. It was quite a challenge not to scream with joy at the event. Celebrations of birthdays, new jobs, graduations, good grades and achieving goals always had food and fellowship around a table.
Soon after I got my first apartment, I bought a table of my own. My family is still surprised at the resemblance it has to the one we grew up with — complete with a green paint smudge. Although I can’t really remember how it got there, I’m pretty sure it was while my husband was painting a landscape scene.
My table has been the site of friendly Thanksgiving meals, adopted family Easters and cookie decorating parties. We once fit 13 people around it as two friend groups converged for Christmas lasagna. It has also been the site of hard discussions, Bible studies, financial planning and tears.
It has been the site of games and giggles and many friends. One of our favorites lately has been “Ticket to Ride,” a game in which players build train tracks across the United States. My husband wins almost every time.
My table now also doubles as a kitchen counter much of the time and the starting point for our various culinary adventures — included but not limited to spicy, pulled pork and ratatouille. The pulled pork was great. The ratatouille, not so much. Italian is more my style. (Ratatouille is a French dish.)
If we ever have children, my husband and I have already discussed that we want our children to be able to have memories of a family table where laughter and fun can be had with delicious food around.