Monday, April 9, 2007

The Family Dinner

When I was growing up, the four members of my family sat down together for dinner sometime between 5:30 and 6 p.m. every day. Our meals were fairly quiet, with my brother and me sitting next to each other and eating just enough to qualify for dessert. The conversations must have been pretty mundane, because I don’t remember even one.

Since I had the tendency to fight with words, during one memorable meal when I was angry with my brother, I shook things up by calling him a name … well, it was just a word I’d heard and it sounded very serious and mature. I called him a hemorrhoid. Right there at the dinner table.

“You’re a hemorrhoid!”

I had no idea what it meant. My mother looked shocked, but she also looked like she was trying very hard not to burst out laughing. My father, however, was pretty much enraged and proceeded to explain what the word meant. My brother looked pissed. And during all the Sturm und Drang, I remember thinking to myself, “Boy, dad and Alan are really mad. That must be a pretty bad word. Cool!”

I guess then that it should come as no surprise that my family’s dinners today are pretty much what you’d expect, given … well, given that I’m at the table.

Creature Comforts

Our golden retriever, Tucker, is a big boy. At just this side of 100 lbs, he’s a gentle giant but also a sneaky counter and table cruiser. During dinner his head is usually the only part of him that sticks out from under the tablecloth. He stares with unblinking eyes at boy #1. He knows who is most likely to break the law and feed him under the table.

Our other dog, Annie, likes food but loves paper products. Seriously. During one meal, we watched as a used paper towel slowly slid to the edge of the table and disappear underneath, seemingly all by itself.

Both dogs know within a mouthful or two when our dinner is done and theirs is about to be presented. Just to make sure that we’re aware of this, they bark out a loud call-and-response rhythm until we tell them to knock it off. They’ll stop, but just for a minute or so. Our family never lingers at the table.

Sophisticated Conversation

Yesterday was Easter, and while we’re not a religious family, we all recognize that the day is special. So we sat down to our meal and tucked in. Did we talk about religion, politics, or philosophy? No, gentle reader. We talked about mothers … specifically, yo’ momma. More specifically the conversation (if you can call it that) ranged from how fat to how stupid to how old “yo’ momma” is.

The contest was between my husband and son #1, with son #2 acting as referee. I was the audience. Let’s just say that it was a bit surreal to sit there and hear just how fat, stupid, and/or old I am.

Delightful Entertainment

I have no idea how dinners in which little girls participate go, but with boys, the meal is usually pretty noisy. There are slurping and smacking noises. There are belches (followed by belated “excuse me’s” and, usually, giggles). There is also sometimes some … wind accompaniment, shall we say. The big dog bumping around under the table rattles the dishes, sometimes overbalancing stacks of old homework, mail, and other detritus so that everything falls to the floor.

There’s also a fair bit of laughter.

Our meals may be noisy, messy, and chaotic, but I don’t think I’d change anything. We’re all together, sharing a meal. And so far the word “hemorrhoid” hasn’t made an appearance.

1 comment:

  1. -Jen here-

    I know how you feel, that's for sure. Each family has its... unique qualities, but you can't help but love them not just despite their peculiarities, but really FOR them.

    Grant, for example, will not sit and eat with you. He just won't. It might sound sad to think that we don't actually have any of that quality "dinner" time that those commercials are always talking about. But what the commercials don't understand is that video games are far more important than eating (Rule #1 in Grant's life), and really, it's much easier to get Grant to interact if your character is trying to klobber his with some kind of giant hammer and/or fruit bomb.