I’ve seen decades of family dinners. They evolve.
1950’s Mom, Dad, Grandparents, three kids and baby. Every night around a set table in our designated spots. Grace is said. Manners are used. We eat everything on our plates and cannot be excused from the table until everyone is finished. We are allowed to complain bitterly about it being our turn to help with the dishes, but we have to do it anyway.
1960’s Mom, Dad, two teenagers, two little sisters, grandma, random relatives, neighbors, strays. We still say grace. Our manners get lost in our rush to finish and go off to do more important things. Homework. Jobs. Dates. Loud music in our bedrooms with the doors closed. Smoking out the windows, dropping hurriedly snuffed out butts down into the flowerbeds. Blaming it on old Uncle Bill who smokes a pipe and whose showing up for dinner should be useful for something.
1970’s The family grows. In-laws, spouses, grand babies, significant others. It’s hard to keep track of everyone. Whoever can make it home does. (And all of us try.) Because, my gawd, the food is amazing! Why did we not realize that or appreciate if before? Mom’s (Grandma’s) biscuits. Everything garden fresh. The best pies ever.
1980’s Because we’ve moved away, the holidays home become treasured celebrations for us. Our kids must reacquaint themselves with their cousins, their aunts and their uncles. All the various people they are related to but can’t begin to figure out how. The old farmhouse is a curious place to explore. The ‘grandma dinners’ are the best dinners ever, vegetables and all, because she never makes them eat anything they don’t like. They can have extra dessert instead and all the juice they can swallow. Grandma rules.
1990’s Now my kids are the ones with jobs and dates and homework and friends. We eat on the run, or in front of the tv, or out somewhere, or not at all. When they move out, we make a pact to get together every Sunday for a family dinner. I look forward to these Sundays and cook enough food for twenty people so that they can take home all the leftovers.
The holidays with the grandparents are sparse. They have moved to town and now take everyone out to restaurants for our family dinners. We can order whatever we want. Dad (Grandpa) pays. It makes him incredibly happy to see us all together and I think he would pay double just for that.
2000’s Now I’m the grandma! My parents are gone. I try to live up to the grandma standard my mother set, but it isn’t easy when you can’t make a decent biscuit to save your life. When my kids bring their familes our dinners are more likely to be delivered pizza than something I throw together. Kids should get to eat whatever they like, right? Our Christmas dinners at my son’s house are our most recent evolution of the family dinner. Five growing grandchildren make them memorable. I make great stuffing and awesome fudge. Perhaps they’ll remember that.