I am 24 years old. I don’t pretend to know anything about raising a family. I don’t make any claims that my family is perfect or that my brothers and I didn’t give my parents their fair share of headaches over the years. And my parents will openly admit that, like all parents, there are some things they wish they’d done differently. But through it all, we managed to make it to the dinner table every night, and dinnertime got us through. It provided us with a chance to catch up, let loose, and learn more. The table served as a check-point on our journeys, a platform for discussion and a bridge to the next day.
People often argue that they’re too busy to eat dinner together. We were too busy not to. If I hadn’t had dinner with my family members each night, I wouldn’t fully understand or appreciate each of them…I doubt I would know them very well at all. As we nourished ourselves on the line of one day and another, we were made equals, all on the same level, looking each other in the eye.
Nothing in moderation: That might be the best way to describe dinners at my house. We sit for too long, eat too much, talk too loud…. and no topic is off limits. In fact, I’m always surprised that my otherwise conservative family is so open and frank at the table. Often times, emotions run high: My brothers’ faces redden as they argue about Walmart’s impact on society. My mom laughs hysterically into her napkin as my brother retells that joke about the horse walking into a bar (bartender asks, “Why the long face?”) My dad’s eyes get just a little glassy as we recall my late grandfather’s ability to lay bricks and tend a garden with equal care.
In recent years, my brothers and I have all gone in search of greener pastures, leaving our hometown behind to find more interesting jobs and more exciting cities. Still, nothing has replaced having dinner together at the end of a long day. Dinnertime has always and will always be a daily reminder that, when all is said and done, there are four other people in the world who will sit with me, listen to me and love me.
I wrote this because I had to…because I’m so unsure, so “on-the-fence” about so many things at this point in my life, but so absolutely sure that I am happier and healthier because I partook in my family’s “dinner ritual.” Every day I wonder if I’m doing the right thing, if I’m on the right path, making the right choices. Every evening that I’m home, eating dinner with my family, I know for certain that I am exactly where I should be, and while I still may not know if I’m headed down the right path in life, when I’m at the table, I know that I will figure it all out.
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