In an article titled “Why We Eat together” by Louise O. Fresco, “The table is a place of memory where we. . .become aware of who we are and with whom we are. Around the table, all previous meals come together in every meal, in an endless succession of memories and associations. The table is the place where the family gathers.”
When Scott became a high school administrator, one of the first challenges we grappled with was how to still have family dinners together. Most events occurred from 4 pm into the late hours of the night, ending at 10 pm. It might seem like such a minor detail to think about, but to us, the dinner table has always been a time for us to come together to talk, to laugh, to express anger, to cry over a hardship, and just unpack the days highs and lows (from a 4 year old perspective to a 44 year old perspective).
For the 7 years he was in administration, he made a conscious effort to come home in between events to sit with us for a quick 20 minute break, while the girls and I ate dinner. They would love to hear the sound of his Bronco rumbling into the driveway and squeal with excitement when the door knob unlocked. Mind you, this was when they were 5 and 3. We jokingly ask why they still do not jump up with excitement when we come home, but even as they enter the pre teen years, I know secretly that they enjoy that time to gather around the family table.
From time to time, I wonder if our girls truly know the luxury they have to eat a daily family meal together. The saying comes to mind, “You don’t know what you miss, until you do not have it.” My hope is when they grow up to be adults they can sit back and reminisce about all the family meals we have had together.
It takes time and effort to consciously choose to set a specific time to enjoy this act of eating together. Over the years, some of the girls’ friends thought it odd that everyone sits together, technology free, and void of screen time. But what I noticed is that each person we have invited over for a family dinner has left the meal a little more lighthearted and their cup is a little more full.
One time an acquaintance jokingly said, “You guys are like Leave it to Beaver,” who has time to make a home cooked meal anymore and sit together? I first thought it was a bit offensive and derogatory.
However, I then realized that our society has taken away this “sacred act” of enjoying a meal together. Work schedules, school schedules, screen time, alarms for all kinds of appointment reminders distract many of us while we enjoy a meal.
In that same article, the author explained, “The dining table is disappearing. Fewer are being sold now in rich economies, apparently. This says a lot about the times we live in. The table is less and less the center of family life. We eat at the computer, standing in the kitchen, lounging on the sofa in front of the television, in the car, or walking along the street.. . Sales of plates are declining too, and even more so serving dishes and cutlery designed for serving from them. More and more of the food we buy is ready to eat, in throwaway tubs or trays, or designed as finger food to be eaten with one hand and no cutlery.”
As I reflected on our family time and the products Scott builds in our wood shop, I realized that many of his custom designs focus around a dining table or a communal table to bring people together. We continually focus on the mantra “Simplifying 21st century living and balancing work and home life.” Each piece he creates is not only a design for the customer but something he believes in as well.
For instance, the French country dining table he custom built a month ago. My mom had traveled to Italy quite some time ago. One of her most vivid memories was the amazing table she and my family sat around each day to enjoy. Her vision of the table and the space she wanted to recreate was a compilation of her trips to Europe, her family memories around a dinner table, and a space that would evoke a “welcoming” feeling.
The dining room table took time, to say the least. My mom was envisioning an elegant touch. My brother had the perfect material. . extra granite that he had used for his kitchen renovation.
However, the beautiful piece was so heavy and delicate, we had to ask for help. This was not a one man job. My nephew showed his craftsmanship and skill with helping create this in lay. The farmhouse design also had to be reinforced due to the intricate granite Scott was placing on the table top.
With four of us moving this stone, we had to transport it for a 20 minute drive in hopes it wouldn’t break. Well after we had transported the granite, Scott worked for another week making specific cuts, adding to the design, to support that in lay. It was by far one of the most technical pieces he created.
When the table was complete, each family member had a piece they had contributed to the end product. The precious time that we have together, was a bit like the creation of the actual table. We basically “set the table.” The labor, the setbacks, the time it took to create this was worth it. When we enjoyed Thanksgiving outside this year, we all had a satisfied smile and sense of accomplishment. We built the family table.
During this pandemic, we have enjoyed many family meals together. Some have had heartache, some have been reminiscent of times pre Covid, some have been imagining our first travel adventures after Covid, and some have been just a venting session of the days’ challenges for distance learning.
Regardless of the meal or where the table is, we are laying the foundation of what is important to our family. A space to sit around, to stand around, to nourish your body and your mind is all needed. When was the last time you enjoyed a meal together? Maybe you could even schedule a once a week meal with your loved ones?
As this New Year awakens us, find a space you hold sacred for yourself and the people you love. You might enter that space hungry, and leave completely satisfied. 7 years later, Scott has made a change to enjoy more family meals with us. Moving back into the classroom has been one of the silver linings of our pandemic living. We were able to reassess what is truly important.
My teenage nephew reminded me of the Zac Brown song titled “The Family Table.” Check it out, make some memories with your family this year. And If you are in need of a special table, I know just where to find an amazing woodworker who can help create that sacred space for you.