March 19, 2013

At this table we sing with joy...

* dinner together with the ones i love *

Welcome to Tuesday, day two of my personal celebration of Act Happy Week!  I mentioned yesterday that I asked my family to think about what made each of them happy and I promised to share some of their thoughts on my blog this week.  Up first is son number three, my college senior who is an actor, director, producer, writer, and all around amazing young man.  His happy thought?  Sitting around our dining room table for a family dinner and then remaining for hours (literally) of laughter, stories, discussions (sometimes heated) ranging from theater to politics to books, and always landing eventually on our family's favorite topic:  movies.
Gathered around our table; in back my daughter-in-law and two sons, in front college son and daughter
We warn the new boyfriends and girlfriends that are invited to dinner that we are a bit boisterous, but no friendly warning can really prepare you for how animated my family can become as we discuss movies, movies and more movies.  We discuss characterization, scripts, plot lines, acting (the good, the bad and the downright ugly), and these discussions can go on for hours.  I once served breakfast, we ate, I cleared the table, sat back down and continued talking, got up four hours later and warmed up the breakfast leftovers for brunch, served, ate, cleared and continued talking, and finally we ended up ordering pizza for supper...a whole day at the table!  Clearly, we are a family of talkers.
Not necessary for my family!!
My son said that he was shocked when he first went to college and discovered how few families take the time to prepare a meal and break bread together, gathering around the table to re-connect with each other and share the ups and downs of daily life.  According to his friends, meal times mostly consist of fast food or warming something up in the microwave and eating whenever/wherever.  When my husband and I were teachers we were always stunned to hear stories of students' families who didn't take time for each other, some of them not even eating together on the holidays! 
When my children were little, I made a hot breakfast every single day (unfortunately, I must have made a LOT of pancakes because my oldest son can't face pancakes now!) and we all sat down to breakfast together, taking time to toast each other with our glasses of orange juice.  It always reminded me of Sergeant Esterhaus on Hill Street Blues when we clinked our glasses of juice and cautioned each other 'let's be careful out there'.  I'm certainly not trying to imply that I was super mom, because trust me, I was not, but I did manage to corral my little chicks around my kitchen table and I am gratified that my son values our decision to cherish and protect our family mealtimes.  In this regard, I like to think we resemble my favorite television family.

So what makes my son happy makes me happy too.  I am glad that we took the time, even when it was hard or inconvenient or was simply by necessity a rushed meal, to come together again at the end of the work day and hold hands and sing The Lord's Been Good to Me.

Thanksgiving holiday concert, from left my daughter, my nephew, college son, my niece and her family's foreign exchange student. 
And here is a lovely poem by Joy Harjo that describes my deep love of my family's kitchen table. "This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun."  Don't you just love poetry that hits the nail on the head?  I guess really good poetry makes me happy too!

Perhaps the World Ends Here

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

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