Perhaps you call it "dinner." I know there are regional differences in naming this meal, but I'm talking about the meal that is served at the end of the working day.
When I was a kid, it was possible for us all to gather for dinner at 5:30. Wednesday night church choir practice, or weeknight activities at school like band or play practice, football games, or dances all were scheduled late enough that you could have dinner with your family and then head off to evening activities.
We timed our clocks by Dad's return home, and knew how much time we had left until we were expected at the table. We had a formal dining room, and also a more casual kitchen table. On Sunday afternoon at 2:00 we always ate in the dining room. Breakfast, lunch and Saturday meals were usually in the kitchen. As my youngest sister grew, we ate in the dining room more and more.
We were not assigned seats at the table, but we always took the same seats. My Dad sat at the head of the table and Mother sat to his left. My brother, the only lefty, sat at the end of the table where his elbow wouldn't bother anyone. Dad served the meat and passed the plate to my mother, who added vegetables.
I think my brother might have been served first, because I've heard it said that my father rarely got to eat his own meal before my brother was ready for seconds. I don't know how much of that is the truth, but he WAS a growing boy. *G*
Dinner was the only time during the day that our family came together. There's a range of 19 years between my oldest sister and my youngest, so there were quite a variety of schedules to organize to accomplish that, but it was assumed that you would be at the table. We talked about what had happened during our day, and discussed the plans for the weekend.
This is on my mind lately because we have slipped into more casual dining. Frequently, I prepare a meal, everyone comes together to fill their plate, and then we all drift off to our own corners. We watch evening news or read books during the dinner hour, and there's no time for conversation.
One of my nieces is a single mother of two boys. They live within ten minutes of us, and one day I suggested that she and the boys should come to dinner. It became a standing invitation. When Tuesday rolls around, she calls to make sure we are "on" for the night, and arranges to bring a dessert.
While we are at the table, we talk about what's happened in our day. We encourage the boys to talk, and their mother prompts them to use "good" manners. The boys carry food to the table, and their mother occasionally helps with last minute food preparation. The boys get to see Dear Husband and me work together, and they get to know one of DH's sons. AND, they get to interact with their great grandmother.
When dinner is over, we get out the UNO cards and play three very fast and dirty hands of UNO. My mother takes no prisoners when playing cards, and always sits next to the older of the two boys. He is resigned to being handed every draw two, and draw four in the deck, and takes it with good grace. He's delighted when he has the chance to give back as good as he gets.
The sense of community that we have as a result of our time together is what dinner should be about. I want those boys to know us. I want them to see the give and take in adult relationships, and I want them to see that it's possible to have a pleasant time without resorting to TV or game boys.
I know that this family dinner is good for my mother, as well. At 87, she needs the contact with her family, too. So.....how is it that we have slipped away from the practice? Now that we don't have young ones in our midst, we seem to have lost track of the fact that everyone needs interraction. Perhaps we drifted away from the table to save me having more linens to wash.....or to save the extra dishes that had to be cleaned. Or maybe there was something special on TV that drew us, to start.
This is just one person's view, but I think we need to re-establish the old-fashioned dinner hour. We need a place where we can talk about what has happened during the day, to congratulate family members on their successes, and to help them when a problem arises. It's a great place to teach a kid civics or charitable activities. And it's a good way to keep up with what's happening in your children's lives.
It's time to return to the table for supper.