In the beginning, it was just
us, at our little table in our little shack of a rental house.
Side by side we would make our feasts: chopping, slicing, sautéing.
The two of us at the table sipping wine, eating our curries or fiery
salsas and fantasizing about what the rest of our lives together would
be. We’d linger for hours
over more red wine and a few cigarettes and maybe a coffee at the end.
We would eat late and long and imagine living in a big building
with a big room and a big table -
where we would eat late and long all the days of our lives.
In this same house with our
first baby and still we ate late into the evening and not much changed
in our ritual. Not much
changed while we cooked and she snoozed in her sling.
While we ate, she’d nurse, then collapse on my chest, neither
of us always noticing or ever minding the salsa in her hair.
In those early days of babe many things remained the same and we
thought that’s how it would always be, with our little carry-on-bag of
a smiling, contented, only baby.
As she started to crawl, we
wriggled away from that hovel of a house that held such sweet emotion.
We left that house of first meeting, first marrying, first baby
and were off into our own first home.
Our first own home that was not the enormity of our fantasies but
rather the smallness of our bankbook - that made us choose between a
living room and our dreamed of big table, and of course we chose the
latter. At this big table
our meals were a little earlier and our menu a bit altered and our
sentences unfinished as we split chores in different rooms and we split
kids, as now there were two. You
change the baby and I’ll cook the dinner, you read a story and I’ll
set the table, you run after them and I’ll run into the bathroom and
take a deep breath. And then
we’ll all sit down together at our big table, not late or long, as the
attention spans are shorter and the bedtimes never early enough.
There are no more cigarettes
but still there is red wine or a cold beer.
Still we fantasize about the future, even more so now, as we
imagine not only our own lives but our children’s too.
These fantasies though are often interrupted by spills and crying
and questions and directives: Eat
your supper, get back on your chair, keep your hands to yourself,
don’t forget to chew, and with this last command they are requesting
(for the 100th time) the retelling of the caveat of the time as a kid I
forgot to chew and I threw up whole orange slices all over the floor.
Three kids now and we fully
surrender to the meals at 5:30 instead of 9:00 and they are in bed an
hour or more before we ever would have even entertained the notion of
conversations are rarely attempted, as no thought is too great to be
left uninterrupted and only a rare sentence sees completion.
We have ritual in the setting and the lighting of the candle and
I have my own private, mindful, sanity-retaining moment of deep
breathing, in through my nose and out the mouth, like childbirth and
then salud, and I gulp my beer.
Dinnertime is chaotic and messy
and we must remember not to sweep until the rice dries.
The commands are many and seemingly more all the time, and the
reminders to behave and to be nice and to listen, but so too increases
the conversations and the sharing and the stories of our youth or theirs
- those one or two or thirty long years ago.
We exhale when all is said and done, or not (next time can we
have macaroni and cheese?). With
that exhale or with a lengthy discussion as to whose turn it is to blow
out the flame, our dinner candle is extinguished.
Though we sometimes question
our sanity at the concept of dining regularly with such ritual and with
three small sometimes frantic and frenetic children, and though we
sometimes start at their getting too close to the candle or their
knocking over of their cup or their falling nonsensically from their
chair or their singing during our moment of silence (read: moment not
minute), it is our hope that what they will take away is the desire to
one day sit and linger long and late and enjoy a meal shared with each
other, with us, with friends or with mates.