It's universal, everyone has their own sometimes wacky, sometimes boring, sometimes disjointed, sometimes meaningful dinner conversations. It's dinner, it's human, it's what happens when people sit in a circle.
When I was little, a few boys down the street (so we were told) were not allowed to speak during dinner. The table was supposed to be quiet. The mom was tidy, the dad serious, the boys quiet? It was almost unbelievable to me that their table was proper. Ours wasn't.
We sat around an old round wooden table, the four of us. My sister gnawed on bones (she did, at least as a baby) and my mom got up and down serving, getting, fixing, adding butter and my dad pulled a high stool up to his knees and balanced a tiny television on top of it so he could watch Star Trek while he ate. Kirk, Bones, Vulcans, Tribbles. That is the stuff of dinnertime memories for me.
There are seasons in the year when dinner for five is tough to coordinate. This fall I was on a new recipe kick so we ate together a lot. People seemed to be able to make it home to see what I was preparing. I felt powerful and needed, me and my mushroom cream sauce over chicken and linguine. Stan noticed that dinnertime during this period seemed to be actually healing and nurturing. All three boys talked, shared their days, ate heartily, smiled and sometimes felt inspired to carry their happy plates to the sink after they'd finished.
The other night we had baked potatoes and london broil, also raw cauliflower and a ranch dipping sauce a la Hidden Valley farms, as well as a sad bowl of boiled broccoli. It was the night after I took Seth to a bookstore and made him wait 4 hours with me to get a signing. [Sidenote - Seth, not a booklover or a sitting-still tolerater, has never cracked a book that wasn't assigned and rarely read the ones that were.]
Seth: I was looking at a book yesterday -
The table in its entirety hushed and eyes widened.
I leaned in: You were?
I was excited at the thought of the wisdom-gaining that may have taken place, not to mention whatever inspiration that may have caused it!
Seth: Yes, remember? I was stuck in a bookstore for 4 hours.
Me, deflated a tad: Oh. Yeah. That. Go on. What were you reading?
Seth, casually, like it was the New York Times or Field and Stream: It was a book on Native African clothing styles and.....
We all slumped. Even stuck in a bookstore for four hours, no words would pass his eyeball range, instead he described nakedness topped off with fanciful (or meaningful, I don't know) feathered tufts popping up from heads, things like that. I can only imagine what punishment would have ensued had those boys down the street peppered their dinner quietude with talk of naked feathered fashion sense.
But it wasn't that part of the dinner that made me write a post, really. It was this part. This bouncey, good-natured but out of left field discourse.
Seth, with pride: Luke. Your nose is getting more like Dad's and mine every day.
Luke: What's that? Big?
Me: It's weird, you three all have very different noses.
Sean, who does have a little trouble keeping his glasses up: Luke says my nose doesn't go with my face. He says that I have a black guy's nose.
Me: Well, you need to give it back to him!
Sean, misunderstanding my command gets up and walks over to Luke's side of the table: Hey Luke! You have a pimple on your nose big enough for a baby to sit on!
Stan: Nobody puts Baby on a nose!
I beamed with pride that my husband knows lines from chick flicks....that my eldest son looked at a book...that my youngest son has a sharp wit...that my Luke is turning into a man...that I'd served two cruciferous vegetables.