Memoir in Progress – Family Dinner

That's me at the top, saying cheese. I am the second oldest and the oldest girl.
That’s me, up top, saying cheese. I am the second oldest and the oldest girl.

My family is loud – my brothers, my sister, my cousins, aunts, uncles. I love the chatter, the pushing and pulling of words, the running of mouths at mealtimes. Joking, jockeying for attention. I could never get enough attention.

No matter how much I wanted to talk about my student council victory, it only received a passing nod and a “pass the potatoes.”

My mother was a good cook in the corned beef and cabbage, meatloaf and carrots category. Pork tenderloin roll-ups were my favorite: Wrap a piece of pork tenderloin and pepper in bacon. Bake.

We shared one phone, the seven of us. We’d take the phone off the hook at dinner time by dialing our one phone number, 825-3428, listen for the busy signal, then throw the phone in the silverware drawer.

Dinner was sacred, a functional time in a dysfunctional family. Studies show that a family that eats dinner together is less likely to harbor burgeoning criminals or drop outs. Family dinner was just what my family did and maybe it is what saved us. I still try to do family dinner.


*I took the title Memoir in Progress from Kelly Wallace. (Thanks, Kelly).

This essay is the beginning of a series of essays I wrote at Dan Wakefield’s Writing the Spiritual Autobiography class at Pendle Hill over the last few days.

Pendle Hill is a Quaker retreat center outside Philadelphia — super nice! I love the Quakers — their fierce pacifism, their gentle spirits and their minimalism.

The retreat was sorely needed. I don’t want to go into all the reasons. But one reason is the anticipatory grief of my son going off to college. I am going to miss that little (6’4″) dude at family dinner.

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