Back to the Family Table

Back to the Family Table

By Alicia Massinople-Scott

In the 2007 winter issue of UPPER ST. CLAIR TODAY an article titled “Gathering Round the Family Table” was published. It was an article with a simple and basic message, but one which is often obscured by our hectic schedules and pressing deadlines. The article spoke of the all-but-lost ritual of gathering ’round the family table, with individuals breaking bread as one. I have revisited that article a handful of times over the past 12 years and each time I read it, there were one or two elements that weren’t the same for me anymore. Looking at the recent photograph taken in 2019, the obvious changes were to be expected—a few more gray hairs, maybe a few more pounds (give or take!). The children no longer “children,” but young adults paving their own individual paths. But the most significant change was the one to which no other could compare.

The individuals who flanked me in the photograph taken in 2007 are no longer here. As I see it, two people could not have lived fuller, more fruitful lives. Each of them making it to 96 years young (passing five years apart from one another), their sole purpose from among my earliest memories was to nurture and nourish their six children in ways that have sustained us even though they’re now gone from our sight.

The article’s original premise was to remind us that the evening meal can be a daily celebration of family and should not only be assigned to the more glamorous holiday table adorned with the hand-embroidered tablecloth, the luminous crystal, fine bone china, and delicately tapered candles. We can count on one hand how many times a year this happens, right? We feel a little merrier, cheerier, and full of goodwill on these occasions.

But what about that Tuesday night in February? How do we feel about sitting at that same table with place mats, humdrum glassware, and everyday plates? If the ones seated across from us are among the same ones who graced that festive table those bygone holidays, then gratitude is the word that comes to mind.

What was true then seems to be truer now, even though some of those who laughed along in the merriment have moved on. It’s a given with every family. The dynamics change as the years roll along. Kids grow up and move away, grandparents and parents depart, and we automatically change some of our perspectives of what and who is worth keeping close. Each year, the holiday season is a miracle in and of itself. It slows us down, lightens our step, and opens our hearts a little wider to feelings of “goodwill toward men.”

But, what we learn from our own family members when seated at the nightly dinner table can be as rewarding as it can be eye-opening. These are the folks who helped shape who we are. Looking back, we have received something from each and every one of them when seated at that familiar table—a good joke, a new perspective, or, perhaps, a life lesson. There is a treasure trove of gifts waiting at the family table, too many to list. The greatest of these is so simple, but always worth noting. The greatest of these are memories we carry with us from that table. They last a lifetime. 

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