As our final week of homework for Visual Storytelling, Molly Flanagan’s photography class I took through The Define School, we were asked to tell a story in pictures. I was hoping for perfect natural light and lots of time to prepare and practice. Instead, I got rain and clouds and a busy week celebrating our oldest turning five. But I’m still glad to capture this chapter of life and the craziness we call dinner time. Tonight, we had my favorite kind of celebration–the kind where the kitchen looks like a bomb went off thanks to my little sous chefs and the five of us gather around our kitchen table while we tell knock knock jokes and enjoy the birthday girl’s favorite fish tacos. Lydia, our story wouldn’t be the same without you. Your laugh, your compassion, and your love of life are written all over this messy, beautiful story we call family. Happy birthday, sweet girl!
Matt and I were married for almost five years before we had our first child. And in those five years, we ate at our dining table maybe a half dozen times. We would come home from work, cook dinner or reheat leftovers and crash on the couch, the coffee table serving as our table, watching television, talking about our day. Between bites of stir-fry or homemade pizza, we watched Jack Bauer take out bad guys and every single episode of Friends on DVD. Dinner was a relaxing affair, a soft spot after working all day.
But once Lydia was born, things started to change. Baby food entered the picture and, with it, a move from the couch to the dining room. I uncovered our table which, by this point, had become the catch-all for bags, purses, jackets, stamps, dog leashes and anything else we needed to grab on the way out the door. Instead of balancing plates on our knees, we set the table. (Of course, the silverware is never in its proper place.) Since that day we have had dinner around that table almost every weeknight.
The meals aren’t always gourmet. While I love to cook, sometimes life just gets a little crazy and you make do. I try to keep a few things on hand so that I can always throw together a meal quickly. My favorite fast meals are black bean tacos, chicken sausages and sweet potato fries I get from Costco or baked potatoes and salad. Last night’s dinner consisted of one of those California Kitchen BBQ chicken pizzas from the frozen food aisle. Exotic, huh? And don’t get any illusions of Matt and me staring deep into each other’s eyes. Usually, Lydia is entertaining us with a new fairy story and Charlotte is feeding sweet potato chunks to the dogs. And, almost always, something gets spilled. But for thirty minutes, okay… twelve and a half minutes… we get to all be together, within inches of each other. We laugh. We talk. Sometimes, we plot early bedtimes. And we remember that these people, the ones who sit around our table… we are a team, a tribe. We are family. And for a few minutes each day, we come together to remember and celebrate this thing called we.