My early memories begin around tables. My father's large clan of 11 children who grew to adulthood was often raucous - shuffling cards while eating and drinking, telling jokes and roaring with laughter - while my cousin and I played in the next room.
My mother's clan gathered around a kitchen table where children were integral. Grammy's tiny three bedroom, one bath craftsman home at 10 America Street had a small kitchen, barely big enough to expand the table to seat a dozen.
The room's only drawback was having to go around through a very small living room and even tinier dining room just to get to the sink! Memories from that tiny house are full of harmony and laughter. And very small servings of food. They had survived hard times by learning how to eat tiny bites, chewing completely while patting their food with their forks into longer-lasting little piles. Every morsel was appreciated, ending with pie cut into aptly named "slivers."
Those dinners were not about the food. It was conversation, savored with wit and laughter, that was important. I remember those early tables with joy.
Those of us who have a 10 America Street in our history
have a head start. But those who don't
can start their own family tradition
by inviting their loved ones for a weekend
of valuing each other - around any size table.
Growing up in Mum's childhood home required seven siblings to maintain the utmost respect for each other and each other's privacy. That respect translated into listening to one another and enjoying each others' talents. It was a family to be admired and it produced wonderful adults who then raised their own children in an atmosphere that engendered self-respect. A recent weekend at my sister's home reminded me how important those gatherings around the table are still. This generation's dining table sat 11 1/2 people in comfort and its candlelight testified to the results of family gatherings that produce self-respect in their young. The kitchen table does not fit all at once but accommodated small groups sauntering in periodically for breakfast and conversation. At night, it fit eight adults playing Trivial Pursuit. The game was lively and competitive, but all in good fun, reverberating with respect and joy.
In the company of my sister and brother-in-law's three grown children and their mates, their three-year-old grandchild and another on the way, we enjoyed a weekend without turning on a television! It was a houseguest weekend, a family gathering that left everyone with a sense of belonging and pride, something Neil Simon could have taken to broadway. The size of the tables, and the rooms they go in, really don't matter. What does matter is being together, enjoying wonderful conversation and play. Those of us who have a 10 America Street in our history have a head start. But those who don't can start their own family tradition by inviting their loved ones for a weekend of valuing each other - around any size table.
Jean Loxley-Barnard has been a writer all her life and studied both sociology and psychology at George Washington University where she earned a B.A. Her company, The Shopper, Inc., encompasses all the Loxley-Barnard family publications - The Shopper Magazines and Doctor to Doctor Magazine. She has been in the advertising, consulting and publishing business for 39 years.
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