I grew up in the midwestern suburbs. I was the youngest of six children and my father worked in industrial sales. When my dad wasn’t traveling to cities like DeMoines, Iowa, he would return home from the city at about 6pm and shortly thereafter the eight of us would gather in the dining room for a formal dinner. In the image below you’ll notice that all eight of us are pictured. A photographer had come from the Wheaton Daily News that night to capture a shot of my mother, who that year had won the honor of being named “Mother of the Year.”
When I remember these family dinners I’m reminded, a little bit, of church. We each had our place at the table much like parishioners sit in the same place at church every Sunday. We abided by pretty strict standards of behavior (we called them manners). We were never allowed to answer the phone if it happened to ring (as hard as that was), we were never allowed to leave the table until we were dismissed and by we began every dinner with the “Collect” that marked the beginning of each family meal: “Bless us O Lord for these thy gifts which we are about to receive through the bounty of Christ our Lord, Amen.” It all reminds me of Norman Rockwell’s classic painting Freedom From Want.
Last week I saw a You Tube Video of a bit by comedian Sebastian Maniscalco. The video is part of an act Maniscalco calls “What is Wrong with People?” It’s a very funny piece and watching it compelled me to remember the more idyllic moments of my childhood. My parents drank Folgers, not Sanka, but we always had Entemann’s on hand! My favorite were the crumb topped doughnuts! Sadly, however, I was alarmed at what it means that I can relate so well to what Maniscalco parodies in the piece – that moment when the doorbell rings these days…
When posting Maniscalco’s video I noticed that it has nearly one million views. Apparently I’m not the only one that can relate. It makes me wonder what has changed. Is an abnormal fear of the doorbell ring the result of being available,”24-7,” as they say, via e-mail, cell phone, text? Often times when someone is trying to reach me (and vice versa), an e-mail is followed by a phone call and then a text message. When I worked with college students as a chaplain – which is years ago now – I realized that students wouldn’t answer their phones but would respond immediately to a text message. In my own family over the last decade or so I’ve noticed a shift from individual telephone conversations on holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving to group texts and e-mails. In the age of constant availability, it seems, privacy has become a priority if not a necessity. Even among loved ones. At what cost, I wonder?
Oh, Jimmy!! How I loved this picture and story. My children could identify with it too. We all sat down for dinner together and for breakfast as well, started with grace and no one could leave the table without permission. Sadly, those days are past. But maybe they will be recaptured in the future when people realize what’s been lost. Could you please send me a link to Sabastian’s piece?
‘See you Wednesday,
The Turners can relate! We tried to keep those same mealtime standards with our kids, too. And when I was little, the ONLY time I saw my parents angry was when my mother actually answered a phone during dinner. We made snickerdoodles on Saturdays to have available for any company that night drop in.
So come on by! The coffee is usually on and I can usually whip up something. Privacy is overrated.
Jim, that Post really brings back memories of dinner at home in those pre-college years. I was one of 5, 4 girls and then a boy 4 years later. At mealtime we girls always chattered on about the day and little bro said nothing. After a while (years) parents intervened and said he had to have his chance to talk. He is still shy but when you get him going, he’s right on!