I guess I have an unusual family. In fact, I know I have an unusual family. I am the oldest of five children, the youngest of whom is 17 years younger than I am. The oldest of my little brothers is only two years younger than I am, but the younger three kids are all younger by enough that I was celebrating my 10 year class reunion, before they were even out of high school. Such a wide range of ages could make for a very fractured family. But, my mother, in her infinite wisdom, was not about to let that happen, so she instituted "Sunday Dinner".
Sunday dinner is done at Mom's house almost always. We have tried having at the kids' houses, but somehow it just doesn't work. There's not enough room, it's too far (even though Mom lives further from the city than most of us), you name it, there's an excuse. We celebrate all the birthdays and the honoree always gets to choose the menu. We have had everything from steak and chicken for grownups with healthy appetites, to a "cereal bar" for my son, Michael, when he would eat nothing else. It is very relaxed (almost to the point of being comatose). We all sit around and chat while dinner is getting ready. Sometimes we help with the cooking and preparation, other times we don't. Long ago Mom gave up trying to clean up for all of us, but somehow the chaos suits us. We just move anything that is in the way off to the side and sit on the chairs, the floor, the tables...wherever we can find space.
Dad is never exactly thrilled to see us all coming. He hides in his room or goes and plays his trumpet in another room. He is a very introverted person by nature and none of us really takes offense. He just needs his quiet time and we need to see each other and touch base.
Sunday Dinner has become a touchstone for all of us. As we have gotten married and had children of our own we have become quite a mob. When all of us are together, there are 21 of us. We use our time together to bounce ideas off of one another, to cry on each other's shoulders about the stupid thing our kid did at school and to share the small triumphs of our own lives. When I miss a Sunday Dinner, I become disjointed and out of touch with my siblings and I begin to miss them. Even the younger kids have insights to offer to us older kids that we have never would have seen with our jaded eyes.
No...none of us is perfect. And yes...we get into some HORRENDOUS fights, but, each week, we know that Mom will be serving up dinner for all of us. All of us, whether we behaved ourselves last week or not, will be welcomed back, and, indeed, expected at the crowded table. And that's what a family is. It is a place to renew and recharge. A place where we can go to get a hug or a pat on the back. A place where we can be loved for who we are and not what we own or what we have to offer. A place where there is forgiveness and love.
I love my family, warts and all. I hope that Sunday dinner becomes a tradition in more households. It is priceless.