At first I was confused. Not even a week earlier I had walked into James’ family home for a Christmas Eve meal. It was the first time I had met his family and as I walked in, I was greeted by his mom, the buttery smell of pierogies and onions frying in a pan, and the sight of a large, beautifully set dining table. But today was different. Today was not a holiday or a special occasion, it was just a regular Friday night. And so my attention was drawn to the kitchen, where I saw the table being set. A table that was best suited for six people. I looked around the room, did a quick count, and noticed there were nine of us. It seemed odd to me that we wouldn’t be using the perfectly suited dining table for a meal with so many, but no one else seemed to question this logic and dinner preparations continued underway. As I was new to the scene, I was a bit reserved and more a spectator than anything else at this point. I watched as three generations worked their way through the meal time process. Nancy, James’ mom, prepping dinner on the stove, Gramps, age 90 at that point, whipping up a batch of his famous iced tea, I can still taste the mint as I recall that memory, and five, yes five brothers, goofing off together and helping getting the table set for dinner.
When the meal was ready, everyone gathered around the table. The table I had initially thought was too small seemed to welcome all nine of us happily. We sat, we ate, we laughed, we bumped elbows and all the while I couldn’t help but notice the joy at the table. The comfort, the joking, the good spirits, the shared passing of delicious, homemade food. It didn’t matter how hectic the day had been, or the vast amount of places everyone seated had been or had come from, at this time of night, everyone was gathered around, close and happy, enjoying the food and each other’s company. When the meal was finished, I was most in awe of what happened next. All of the brothers stood up and starting helping with the dinner time clean up. No one had uttered a word and yet somehow this clean up process was orchestrated in a flawless manner. Two brothers starting clearing and the others headed off to the sink. It was clear that this was a family where everyone did their fair share and the appreciation of a good meal was shown in the sharing of responsibilities. I watched as the brothers worked side by side, exchanged a few wet towel whips, laughed and talked until the last plate was cleaned.
I have eaten at the table a countless number of times, sometimes the table so full we thought there was no way we could fit anyone else, and other times when there was plenty of room. No matter who sat around the table, it was always a time for us to gather, slow down, eat and share a moment in an otherwise chaotic day. Whether you sit each night at a table that is full of people or not, I hope you are finding the time to enjoy that moment. I’m hopeful that my family can provide you with the opportunity to make these moments a part of your everyday life. To stop, to gather, to eat, to nourish.
Cheers to those everyday moments!