The Dinner Table
Updated: Nov 7, 2019
When I was growing up, the major event of every day was dinner. We all looked forward to the evening meal. It was the one time of the day that we all gathered in one place to catch up on the happenings of the day. I was the second oldest of six children, and, including Grandma, who lived with us for several years, that made nine around the table.
Mamma was a good cook. I have often thought about how tired she must have been when we all sat down in the evening to eat. We never ate at a restaurant. We just couldn't afford it. Year after year Mamma managed to prepare us a decent, filling, tasty dinner.
At any rate, there we all were. I always sat across from Daddy. He and Mamma would discuss the happenings of the day and what was going on in the world. For two people with limited education, teetering on the edge of poverty, they were well informed and aware of world events. There was a lot of gloom and doom about the cold war, and the ever-present fear of the Communists. But there were other things they discussed- local events, work, the elections, whatever came to their minds. We kids chimed in if there was anything interesting about our day to report. But mostly, we listened to the adults.
The thing I remember most, sitting in that warm circle, was my father's hands. He had large hands, with thick stubby fingers. The nails were clipped short, and stained with the cigarettes he rolled, and grease and dirt that he could never quite scrub off. The fingers were heavily calloused from the hard work he had always done. Sometimes he would take a knife to the thick callouses, trying to trim them down. I couldn't watch when he did that. But even as a young child, I knew those hands that were so gentle with us children were hard as rocks because he worked so hard to support us all.
I loved him dearly. He was loving and thoughtful with us children, something he had never known as a child. But he had a fierce temper too, and could be pushed too far. It rarely occurred but once in a while one of us would get yelled at and swatted on the rear.
As the years went by, and time and trials tore at my parents, they started having arguments when they thought we weren't listening. I never knew what they were about, but there were days when dinner was a tense and silent affair. I looked forward more and more to graduating and getting out of that crowded little house and away from the tension.
Things eased up when they moved into town. My mother was happier there, and found work that helped add to their income. I was gone, as was my older brother, and they both seemed more content. I never heard them argue there. Years later, of course, I could see how hard life was for them, and how hard they worked to provide for us. We never went hungry and we always had enough clothes to wear. They never complained about the load.
But the good times around that table will always be my favorite memories of my childhood.