Donna Reed is one of my dearest friends and the only one I’ve ever known who had a truly happy—even idyllic—childhood. We have shared a rich professional life as well as a fun-filled friendship, with many laughs.
In recent years she has been writing a series of personal essays, published in her local paper The News-Gazette, in Champaign, Illinois.
These articles are insightful and often humorous, and they offer comfort food for the soul.
Her first book, My Voice, is a compilation of her many essays that have appeared in The News-Gazette.
Donna is one of our very talented Vintage American Ways Team members, and this is our first blog featuring her writing.
Ditch the Dining Room; Keep the Table
By Donna Reed
Such a discussion reminded me of a friend’s recent visit. Cheryl was in town for a week to stay with her two teenage granddaughters while their parents were traveling. I suggested that I come by for a sit-down dinner and a visit some evening while she was in town. “That’s not going to be possible,” she said. “The girls have such busy schedules that I don’t think we’ll be having breakfast, lunch or dinner together while I’m here,”
I had forgotten how busy a teen’s schedule could be. My friend related the girls’ frantic morning routines as they grabbed something and ran out the door, and she knew she wouldn’t see them at lunch. She thought she would make a big pot of chili available to the girls whenever they had a minute to grab something to eat in the evenings. That sounded familiar. I thought back to those years when our own teenager had a similar crazy schedule.
Back then we were dealing with homework issues, curfews, time spent with friends, time in front of the computer, and so on. (Some of the same issues parents and teens are dealing with today, I’m pretty sure.) A wise person, who had been there before me, gave this advice. Choose one thing… sit down at the table and eat together. That was it. Just that one thing. Don’t confront all the prickly issues at one time. Sit down at the table and share a meal.
But we were ships in the night. We all had our own agendas. It was difficult to plan a meal let alone sit down together and eat that meal. There were after-school jobs to consider, evening classes I was taking, committee meetings my husband attended, and evening exercise schedules. To find the time to eat together would take some real effort.
And it wasn’t easy. It did take effort, on all our parts, but it became a priority. I had watched our communication with one another take a back seat to all the other “stuff” in our lives for too long. It hadn’t happened dramatically but gradually and over time… we just weren’t putting our family first.
Somehow with a few moans and groans, with a few rescheduled meetings, with a few more responses, “no we can’t serve on that committee,” we made just that one thing happen. We began to sit at the table and eat together every evening. We didn’t always eat at the same time each evening, but we sat down and ate together. The result? A small miracle. We talked. We listened.
Those prickly family issues not specifically addressed really did resolve themselves as we continued to take the time to eat together. I wouldn’t trade those days for the world.
In my friend’s situation, things got resolved around the table as well. Cheryl really did want to find a way to spend some time with her granddaughters during her week’s visit. So, she decided to plan time around the table. She got up early and made breakfast for the girls each morning. She fixed French toast, homemade waffles, pancakes and bacon, and eggs. She offered to fix lunch for her high school granddaughter if she could get home for a quick bite. She not only got home for lunch that week but brought friends as well. Both girls brought others by the house in the evenings to share home-cooked meals around the table. Cheryl noticed the text messages that week increased with questions about what was for dinner that evening, what was she serving for lunch, and could they have French toast again for breakfast?
Sitting down at the table and sharing a meal can be a pretty amazing thing in this fast-paced world we all live in. There is an added bonus, too. Sitting down to a meal is not just a way to connect today with our family members; it’s where tomorrow’s memories might be made as well.