Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Family Dinner

Things have been a little crazy here in New Hampshire. We received over one foot of snow this past weekend. I have never before seen snow like that preceding Halloween. The storm knocked down many trees limbs and took out power lines. Many schools have been closed all week and Halloween in my town has even been postponed until next weekend.

Despite the Halloween delay, I am getting in a Thanksgiving mood. I am also in no mood to write a serious blog post. So, I thought I'd share an image that I just purchased for our Life in Context Project. Part one of the project focuses on food memories. (Apropos for this time of year. Don't you think?)
Family at the Dinner Table- 1950s Vintage Photograph

I love this distinctly period piece. Everyone is lined up on one side of the table, much like one would see in a tv sitcom -- posed facing the camera so all characters can be seen. Here, I suspect that the photographer belongs in the empty chair, since there are five glass on the table. I just wonder about the funny arrangement of the drinking glass in the bowl and the serving platter in front of the empty chair.

This is not a Thanksgiving meal, but it gives me the feel of one. It's that feeling of the family community. The media and others have told us that family dinners help maintain a healthy family unit. This image is an "old-fashioned" idealized view of family life with Dad at the head of the table surrounded by his wife and kids. It is quaint and a little funny --the manner of dress, the idealized happy family, even the chandelier -- but it is an iconic theme of life in mid-twentieth century America. It is an ideal that I know many of my friends still struggle with today.

My family does not always eat at the family table, but we try to do so at least half the week. And when we do, I keep in mind scenes like this. I remember my family sitting at the table when I was a child. I think of all the stories we shared about our days. The family table, especially during the holidays, was also a place to share family "heirloom" stories...the ones that get passed down from generation to generation. I strongly remember Dad telling me about growing up, playing stick ball and handball in New York City. I remember the warmth of the memories and of the foods my mother and aunt so carefully prepared for Thanksgiving. They had a long table set up in my cousins' playroom and a smaller table for the kids. We were surrounded by trains running along the outskirt of the room that filled our afternoon as cooking smells were generated in the next room.

This is the time of year that these stories come back to me in full force. It reminds me the importance of continuing to share them and breathes new life into our common family table. I try to write the memories down when I can. I also try to tell them to the next generation so that they too can picture a family history that roots them to tradition and reminds them from where we came.

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