A Sunday dinner at Pappy and Grandma’s house at first glance was a basic affair where we gathered to eat, talked and just enjoyed the company of family. To the untrained eye of a child, each dinner seemed to be a repeat of the one the week before. After the obligatory hugs, kisses, you’re just as cute as a bug in the rugs and hello uncle somebody that I have no idea who you are; the children were exiled into the yards to explore their imaginations. There, the youngest of the kids usually had to suffer from the domination of the older children who dictated as to what games to play and even which rules would be followed on that particular day.
Inside the house, the adults split into their groups. Usually, but not always, decided by gender. The females occupied the kitchen and the back of the house. Having never been a member of that group, I’m positive that they have their own stories to tell. But my ignorance of the subject dictates that I am better off not leaving any comments on the matter.
The male species would move to the front of the house where Pappy could keep a keen eye peeled on the comings and goings of the neighborhood. His chair was also stationed directly beneath the thermostat. Which made him king of the temperature control. In the various chairs and couches, the older uncles, fathers and brothers would take up their places as befitting the lords and under lords of the castle. Underlings, those that no longer had to be exiled for immaturity but lacked the experience to contribute anything worthwhile to the conversation, sat about the floor. Or if there were too many of them, they migrated to the front porch to form their own group. They always stayed within site of the herd in case some opening should occur in the seating arrangement. Or some topic of conversation might justify them to speak to the elders of the tribe. Conversation varied greatly depending on which council members sat in judgement on any particular Sunday.
The things a young person was taught in those hours spent were far more precious than just a free meal. Those things would never be learned while attending any school. We learned about religion, weather, rotating crops, which politicians were trustworthy or just downright criminals. A question would always come along that would require some hands on training where we would all stroll out to the garage to learn the proper way to replace an alternator or to the garden to view the best way to fertilize tomatoes. We learned respect for those that were more experienced. We learned the art of conversation. No TV’s blared in the background, no cell phones lit the faces of comatose children, and no Instant Messenger, Google, Facebook or Twitter, or games pinged their annoyance into the ears of others. This was our social media.
When it came time to eat, there were always two tables. The children were seated and fed first. This wasn’t about getting them out of the way but about tradition. Stemming from the days when food was a scarce and parents made sure that the children were fed so they could survive.
I know that we are all searching for a way back to that simpler life. But the change is never going to be found in a 2/3rd majority vote by some congress. The change that we need is inside each of us. Perhaps a great start can be a return to that Sunday dinner. Just leave the cell phones at the door.