Advertisements ad

The Family Room by Michelle Martin

January 18, 2009

In the dining room

Looking for a pair of shoes? In our house, they’re probably in the dining room. A library book? Check the dining room. Clean socks? Ditto.

Our dining room table has become the repository for clean, not-yet-put-away laundry. Truth be told, much of it just gets taken out of the baskets and never makes it to the dresser drawers.

It also is where to find hats and mittens, a DVD here, a remote control there. Our (empty) Christmas tree stand recently spent several days on the dining room table, waiting for someone to take it back to the basement.

But once a week, on Sundays, the dining room table gets cleared of books and papers, clothes and odds and ends, and we actually use it for its intended purpose. We gather around it with the whole family, usually along with a friend or two, and eat dinner together.

It’s generally nothing special: often chili or soup in the winter, something off the grill in the summer. But it tastes better with people to share it.

The kids don’t usually sit with us too long. After they finish eating, they generally ask to be excused. The older folks often linger at the table long after my husband and I have gotten up to start clearing the dinner plates and put on a pot of coffee.

Conversation ranges from what’s going on at school to politics — here in Illinois, there’s usually plenty to talk about — but is not interrupted by television.

That’s what we intended when we bought the table, shortly after we were married and before we had kids. We envisioned years of family dinners around it, from holidays and special occasions to every day meals.

It might have seemed an odd purchase: an oak table with leaves and six matching chairs, for a family that included two people living in a small second-floor apartment. Now there are four of us living in the same apartment, and we still can’t put in all the leaves unless we want to set the table diagonally. But I don’t regret buying it.

As it has worked out, most weekday meals in our house are served in the kitchen, as people wander through more or less at the same time. Most holidays are at other people’s houses, although we have had a few. But when we host them, people eat all over the house with the dining room table serving as a kind of buffet; there’s not enough room to do it any other way.

And during the week, the dining room table gets used as a place to put things. Hats and gloves dry on the end of the table that sits near the heater vent. Clean laundry piles up. Homework and mail compete for space.

But Sundays are special. The table becomes what we thought it would be: a place to come together, say grace and share a meal and some time.

Martin is assistant editor of the Catholic New World. Contact her at [email protected].