Lucy, the second oldest, is sitting at the table and likely has been, before I even filled her plate. As I set it in front of her, her eyes widen in delight. She looks carefully at all the food, inspecting it, smelling it, taking it all in. If food is a love language, its Lucy’s.
I tell Kaylee to put the clarinet down and come sit at the table for the third time. My voice is firm and annoyed.
Mariele. Where’s Mariele? She’s in the family room writing something on a piece of paper. I open my mouth to yell out, “Put down the pencil, it’s time to eat!” But thankfully before I do, I realize she has set the table (for the most part) and is now making little name tags for everyone so they know where to sit. No one needs to know where to sit, however, seating arrangements is a special decision she gets to make because she helped set the table. Likely no one will argue with where she puts them.
Josiah is at my legs whining about his dart gun that is not properly shooting. He has not picked up on the fact that it’s dinner time. And because no one had told him, he will continue whining about the gun until he sees Daddy cutting something. At which point he will desperately yell out “I cut?!”
Malachi is still in his baby saucer, but his interest has expired. “Wha! ….Wha!” He’s beginning to cry. I have about 5 more minutes before it becomes a full blown yell. And that’s just sad, so I won’t let it get that far. But we’ll see…
Grandma Sue is on the couch peacefully reading as if no commotion whatsoever was happening around her.
Jesse is finishing the salad. His standard of a salad is much higher then mine. I chop a head of romaine and drop it in a bowl. Boom! Salad! Not for Jesse. He calls that lettuce…. too bad I can’t fool him like I do the kids. So he’s carefully slicing the radishes. I walk by and raise my eyebrows wondering who in the world likes radishes on in their salad, but I keep quiet. I know better. I’m thankful for the help, and the poor guy eats almost nothing but salad, so he should have it the way he likes it. I fill up on everything else first and then force myself to have a handful…if I feel like it.
The garage door just closed which means Grandpa Tom is home. He’ll take off his shoes and hang up his coat in the laundry room before we even see him. And since he hears all the commotion, he can safely assume we’re about to eat. So he sneaks off to the bathroom first.
Josiah has now gotten his plastic utensil knife and is trying to slice a piece of pepper Daddy gave him. It is a pile of green juice and awkward shaped pieces, some skin has been peeled off by hand because he couldn’t cut through it.
I’m filling up a plate for Josiah and Mariele. Kaylee is now putting condiments on the table humming the tune from her clarinet song. Lucy just popped up because she remembered I recently bought seltzer and she wants some with her dinner. They would all prefer soda, but only seldom dare to ask because they know the answer.
“Ok time to eat! Dinner’s ready! And Hot!” I say this loud enough for my Dad in the bathroom, my Mom on the couch and of course, too loud for my poor husband’s ears right next to me.
Josiah scrambles to his seat. Mariele is right there to redirect him to his proper place. He won’t budge. Too bad for Mariele, but she is a good sport, and knows that’s it’s not worth fighting about. Especially just before dinner. She quickly moves a couple of name tags to accommodate her slightly stubborn and anxious to eat little brother.
I scoop up Malachi from the saucer. Kaylee sits. Mariele sits. Lucy sits. Grandma Sue wants to make sure its really dinner time, so she waits till just about everyone is seated, then moseys on over to join the party. Here comes Grandpa Tom. “Where’s my seat?” he asks Mariele. She happily points to the spot with the name tag reading, “Gpa Tom.” Jesse’s filling the last of the plates and setting them on the table. I carefully sit with my plate in one hand and Malachi in the other.
Dinner is simple. (Except the salad, the salad is elaborate.) But dinner time is about way more then food anyway.
“Wait, don’t eat yet! We’re waiting for Daddy to come sit so we can pray.” As if eating before praying would ruin the food…bad theology, oops. The kids have their forks in their hands. Kaylee elbows Lucy who is now chewing…ever…so…slowly…in… hopes… I…won’t…notice she has already taken a bite. Jesse sits down with his large salad and a diet soda.
“Who wants to pray?”
“I do!” yells Josiah. Everyone bows their head and closes their eyes more or less. Some slip a quick sip of their drink.
“God thank you for…” His fists are over his eyes holding them shut, but he moves one fist slightly out of the way so he can peek out one eye and see who’s at the table. “Thank you for Zoo Zoo,” (this is Grandma Sue) “Pom-Pom” (Grandpa Tom) “Tayee, OO-eey” (Kaylee and Lucy). After a long pause he peeks again, then continues, “Mo-mo (Mariele), Mommy, Mal-chi, Daddy, Oo-eey, Pom-pom.” (Apparently he forgot he already listed Lucy and Grandpa Tom.)
“Thank you that I don’t fall off my bike. Thank you that I don’t cut myself with my saw.” He didn’t ride his bike today or yesterday. He had ridden his bike a few weeks ago, when the roads didn’t have snow… I guess he’s still thankful. He also didn’t use his saw today or yesterday. But several days ago, he cut himself with his kid-sized saw. Kid sized, though not kid-sharp. It is sharpened to a standard that would satisfy any man.
Daddy continues, “Yes, God. Thank you for this food and may you bless it to our bodies. Thank you for this family. May we serve you and love others.” Simple and to the point.
Before meal prayers must be rather quick, as anxious bellies are ready to eat their hot food. This is probably why Deuteronomy says, “After you have eaten and satisfied, praise the Lord.” After eating, one has more patience to pray. However, for now, praying before we eat is just fine.
That whole 10 minutes in fact is just fine. Just fine indeed. And tomorrow it will happen all over again. And the next day and the next. Each night will vary a little, but not much. Sometimes Grandpa Tom won’t make it home in tim., Sometimes Grandma Sue will have an appointment. In a few weeks spring soccer will disrupt this little ritual two nights a week.
But gradually subtle changes will take place, so slowly I won’t even notice them. Until one day, the 10 minutes before dinner may look like a different thing entirely.
And so, while I still can, I will heed the advice of so many mothers before me and treasure these moments.