By Samantha McKenzie
The dining room table was set. The aroma of a home cooked meal oozed out the kitchen. Family members scattered throughout the house. A mother’s voice called the troops in. Supper was ready to be served.
The time I’ve spent at the dining room table as a child were happy times. I remember my mom’s look of satisfaction as she stirred the pot one last time. I recall my dad’s serious face as he told joke after joke, leaving me and my siblings laughing so hard, my mom worried we’d choke on the food. I have many not-so-happy memories of my brother swiping the last piece of chicken off my plate, licking it, and then offering it back at my mother’s bequest (brothers!)
Without much thought, I carried this tradition into my own home. These moments around this four-legged rectangle leveled the playing field. This was the time when everyone got a chance to be heard. I was never quite sure if it was the food, the time, or a combination of both, but I learned so much about my children’s lives right in this spot.
It was during these daily gatherings that they told me about their day. I learned mostly the things they liked and disliked, how they sometimes handled fear and controversy and about the many people who impacted their lives.
They critiqued their teachers, family members and neighbors, quickly distinguishing the real ones from the fakes. I listened as they helped each other face difficulties, offering up their own brand of sage and pleading with the other siblings to just take their advice. I was there to interject parts of my family history, sprinkling in just enough of my own experiences to be of some help to the dialogue.
I relished these evening chats. Like most mothers, I made sure I cooked a balanced meal. We laughed at the youngest, who still to this day, is the last one at the table negotiating her vegetable intake. “Eat it,” they would heckle. “If we had to eat it, so do you!”
I recall all of the old stories that would be told over and over again and still received the same reception. I remember the jokes. The joy. The astonishment every time one of the children realized I was once a teenager too.
I think however, beyond the personal conversations and the thoughtful menu, the atmosphere solidified the love that we shared for each other. We had all bought into the idea that when we sat down for dinner at the family table, we’d leave feeling full.
This was the place where our hearts stayed warm, where we strengthened our support system and where the nurturing was always guaranteed.