Growing up, my parents emphasized the importance of family time, especially at the evening meal. My mother made every effort to coordinate a homemade dinner that everyone could sit down to each night. Work, sports, other events may have kept one or two of us away certain days, but dinner at home was important and if you were there, you were expected to sit at the table, say grace, eat your peas, and refrain from excusing yourself until everyone else was finished.
I come from a large, extended family. I am one of five. My father is one of five. My mother is one of four. We have lots and lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Not just of the first kind, but also second, third, and twice removed. As we've become adults ourselves, nieces and nephews have been added to the mix. With more on the way. We like to get together when we can. We always eat, drink, and make merry. We reconnect, tell funny stories, marvel at the time that has passed.
The dinner table is our central family gathering point.
I don't think that Richard came from the same tradition. But he adopted the sit-down-with-your-family dinner wholeheartedly. Even just the two of us, busy working adults that we were, sat down together most nights for dinner. Sometimes I cooked. Usually, he put on the chef's hat. When I was training for my first Ironman, there were some nights when we didn't eat until nearly 9:00 p.m. But he almost always waited for me to be ready, and we sat together over something as simple as hot dogs and mac and cheese and talked about our days, people we met, what the rest of the week might hold in store.
These days, my dinnertime is KC and me. She lies at my feet while I eat. I read or watch TV. Sometimes I talk to KC or just muse aloud. (She listens. I can tell by her cute head tilt.) Every once in a while, I go out to eat, hold up a finger, and request a table for one.
My whole life, I have never been alone. Until now, that is. I went from a full, busy household to college with roommates to married. I never lived alone. I never wanted to.
I know a lot of people who have spent significant parts of their adult lives alone. I assume they're okay with it.
I am not.
My table for one is lonely and uninspired. Yet, it's a tradition I can't seem to give up.
I plan meals. Shop. Prepare, chop, and cook. I set the table with linens, silverware, and the occasional candle. I say grace, eat my peas, and politely excuse myself when I am finished.
Then, I scrape the dishes, load the dishwasher, scrub the pots and pans, and wonder if one day this new normal will actually feel normal.
And it will be okay to ask for that table for one.