Wednesday, November 18, 2009
one moment in time
The most recent edition of Real Simple asked a dozen or so well-known writers to identify and describe their favorite moment of the day, and why. I started to think about my own day, wondering what I would say in response to this same question. I am highly routinized, following predictable patterns every single day, so the first two moments that popped into my head were the moment I have my first sip of coffee in the morning, and the first sip of happy hour in the evening. I quickly decided that, although I enjoy those moments, they are definitely not the best of the day.
Next I considered the ritual of getting Aidan on and off the bus - in the mornings, I often breathe a sigh of relief as the bus pulls away, enjoying a moment of contentment - we've made it through another morning; I've managed to get three kids dressed and to the bus stop before the bus pulled away; I've done my part in getting Aidan off to school safely. In the afternoons, I eagerly await the arrival of that same bus, searching the windows until I catch sight of Aidan's "bright shiny penny face" beaming at me - a ritual of his own that he's created, grinning at me for a moment or two before making his way off the bus. I love the bus stop moments, but they are not my favorite.
Every parent loves the moment when all the kids are tucked into bed and are drifting off to sleep. Usually, this happens without too much fussing or tears (on their part or mine) but that moment of peaceful bliss is especially sweet after a night of difficulty in the going-to-bed routine. Before I turn into bed myself, I always go in for one last glimpse of their sleeping bodies, kiss their sweet faces and marvel at how calm, still, quiet, and beautiful each child is in slumber.
But none of these moments compares to the moment before the dinner ritual begins, when I've prepared all the food, fixed all the plates, grabbed all of the last minute requests, and finally, finally settled into my chair at the head of the table. It is this moment that is my favorite, as each family member settles into his chair, folds his hands for prayer, and looks with happy anticipation at the meal that awaits them. Oddly, mealtime is usually when Aidan and Leo have their best behaviors. (Certainly there are glaring exceptions, but by and large, this is the truth.) Admittedly, they squabble over which prayer we'll sing, and we often end up singing two prayers, to appease Leo. But as we settle into the meal, the dinner ritual begins, and this is my favorite moment, the part I look forward to all day, when we come together as a whole family and share our days with each other. Dinner is the time when we nurture our life together as a family as we nurture our bodies with food.
Research supports the benefits of sharing meals together, and it is no wonder that this is my favorite moment of my day. Upon reflecting on my own childhood, the memories that surface the strongest in my mind are those shared around the dinner table. In the house where I spent the formative years of my childhood, we had a very small, square table that felt cozy and close, the four of us eating there each night. Spaghetti nights were my absolute favorite - mom always used the same brown ceramic bowl with a matching lid for the sauce, and simply catching sight of that bowl on the counter when I arrived home from school made me eager for dinner to begin. We talked politics, highs and lows of the day, shared jokes and laughter, and always, my father requested a "fun fact" from each of us.
Thirty years from now, I wonder what my children will look back and remember most vividly about their growing up years. I hope it includes the many hours we spent together as a family, gathered around the table, breaking bread and making memories, for it is certainly one of my best memories with my family - past and present.