Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Around the Table

Freedom from Want, Norman Rockwell's painting of family and friends gathered around the table, is still one of the most popular paintings today. Have you ever wondered why this painting resonates with so many of us? I believe it's because the painting represents something that we all long for...something that we seem to have forgotten in our fast-paced society. We were created to desire fellowship. We crave relationships with our family and friends. But we allow ourselves to get caught up in our hectic schedules and forget the IMPORTANCE of coming together around the table.

Table time was one of out BEST tools for teaching our children...and their friends. It was a time for teaching good manners and civility towards each other, respect for the opinions of others, and for learning to think outside the proverbial box. It was a time to CONNECT.

Believe me, I know how difficult it can be to gather each and every day. In our home, that practice did not work most of the time. During the years our boys lived at home, we were always running from one training session or game to another. And with Dad being gone most of the week, I drove in circles...about 150 miles each day. We did connect during the long car rides, but by the time we were all home, all we could think about was homework, eating, and SLEEP. We ate in shifts...and usually wherever we dropped.

Weekends...especially Sundays
...that's when we had some of the best mealtimes ever!!! The food was usually good, but the family time around the table was priceless!

With our crack-up sons, we were often entertained with quips and quotes from movies (all three were masters with the dialog from Aladdin...with the appropriate voices!), rampant jokes, and even deep discussions about the happenings in the world and religion. When they were young, we played "head math" and other types of "educational" games. We even made a game about using our dinner napkins...the napkins had to be on everyone's laps before the first bite of food was taken (after the prayer, of course). If one was it child or parent... the culprit had to leave the room and count to 20, VERY LOUDLY, in Spanish, before he/she returned to the table to eat. It was always a red-letter day when the boys could catch MacDaddy or me without our napkins! (That was a teaching time, special treatment for those in "power".) Would you believe the guys...and their friends still try t catch each other when they eat here?

Mealtime around the table was a time to learn about the world, to learn about each other, and to ...just BE. And it was never dull!

As the boys grew up, our table...and our meals...stretched to include their many friends who always seemed to stop by around dinner time. Many of these kids had never eaten food that didn't come from a box or the (gasp!) drive-thru window. I remember Brian, who had never tasted fresh vegetables. He arrived after the meal was finished and made himself a plate of leftover black-eyed peas, fried corn, and cornbread. He practically licked the bowls clean! (And he always asked when I was going to fix this meal again...promising to show up for dinner!)

Then there was Christian, who share how much he loved sitting at out tale...even with paper-wrapped burgers from WENDY'S! He commented that his mom would cook, but that everyone would serve his plate and head to a different room...never to eat together as a family - even on Thanksgiving!

Drummer Boy's many band members would often stay for spaghetti or enchilada dinners after practicing in the garage (Oh, my ears!). And MacDaddy (or "Mad Dog", as they called him) would use this time to challenge these kids to think well beyond their supposed capabilities. We rarely had less than 8 people squeezed around the kitchen table. These dinners would often last 2-3 hours...around the table. The kids did not want to leave!

Our boys are grown and gone, but when they visit, we still have great meals together...Around the Table! And our meals still stretch for hours...and their friends are still welcome...and the conversation, and teasing, and joking continues...and we all grow closer.

And now, in our new "childless" phase of life, OUR friends gather around the table...and the conversation lasts for hours...and we all CONNECT!

Take time this week, to reconnect with your family and friends... around the table. Jane


rjerdee said...

You're so right, Jane, about the importance of eating around the table! And I think that the way a home is furnished or arranged has a lot to do with setting the mood for it.
We've done a lot of TV dining together--not conducive to conversation--but there were years while my kids were growing up that I insisted that we come to the table. Now we have two small homes with varying places to's fun to decorate and create an occasion out of dining.

Deanna said...

Fantastic families, food and fellowship!
Awesome time together.
Have a sweet week and God bless,

Simple Daisy said...

Awww....what a super post!!!
So sweet:)
Even though it's just my husband and I, I try and make sure that we eat at the table at least 2x a week!!
In the summer it's easy because we eat outside so much but when winter comes we usually sit on the couch and watch tv as we eat:(
Thanks for reminding me of the importance of enjoying a meal around the table!!!

Shellbelle said...

Yeah Jane!!!! I think this is one of my favorite posts of all time. I am a firm believer in eating at the table. We always did when I was growing up and it is how I raised my children. When I moved in with my sister 10 years ago, her kids were in high school and no one ate at the table and most of the time not even in the same room. I was horrified. When my daughter and granddaughter came to visit, the table was always set, but even after her kids moved out, sis and I still ate in the living room in front of the TV. I couldn't break her of the habit. Funny though, since I moved to Georgia and live by myself, I eat every single meal at the table. AND it feels good!

Kat said...

Wonderful post! It was a standing rule in our home that dinner was to be spent together, at the table whenever possible. And we made it a priority, even during Cait's crazy busy high school years. I'll never forget one of her teachers calling me. He had asked the class what family tradition was their favorite. Cait told him eating dinner as a family every night. He was so surprised that anyone still managed to do that that he actually called me at home and complimented me. It made me happy, but also sad that this most fundamental of family rituals was considered unusual! Kat

Jess said...

Hi Jane,
Coming over from Nana's Nuggests.
What a great post to remind us about the preciousness of fellowship and family meals!
When my son-in-law first started dating my daughter, he marveled that we made mealtime a priority.
Unfortunately, after 7 years in the empty nest,
Hubby and I eat infront of the news too often!
Not good for fellowship or digestion!
Have a blessed week.

jmac said...

...and yet, one more thing we have in commom!
Table time is demanded here at my house....and like you...when the door was constantly revolving, we managed to all sit together every single week night for dinner. Sigh..I miss those nights. For now mine are grown too and they are not here every night. But at least now, when they come, they're bringing new members of he family to sit at my table! Or the bar on the deck at the lake. Doesn't really matter where, does it? As long as I can reach them all and put their hearts back into mine!
Great post!!