4.23.2006

Last Supper


When I was growing up, dinner time was like a Pat Conroy novel or a David Lynch film. My father was a combo Henry Wingo/Bull Meecham, with a little Frank Booth thrown in. He'd warm up on my mother, "Are you going to eat all that?" and proceed to picking on either me or my sister, usually about "that look on your face" or "your tone of voice." Someone always ran crying from the table until, eventually, we learned to assume the flat affects that seemed to placate him. In any case, I was conditioned to avoid family meals, and, once I turned sixteen, I made sure I was scheduled to work every evening. Youth Prison Camp (my job at Six Flags) was preferable to the fish fries at my house.

During my first marriage, I managed to hover rather than sit at the table. I paced back and forth between the kitchen and the dining room, refilling the iced tea, getting more tater tots, never sitting down. I don't think I realized, at the time, that this was an avoidance technique, but now, looking back, I see it clearly. After I married again, and was no longer a stay-at-home mom, mealtimes became tag team events, with only one parent in attendance. Biggy would take care of it (notice I didn't say 'cook') on the nights I taught, and I was able to avoid the full-family experience. In the past couple of years, however, we've tried to sit down together at least once or twice a week for my exercise in minor torture.

These people are completely devoid of manners, as hard as I've tried to teach them. The meal always begins with Lo crying. Maybe she doesn't like meatloaf. Or we've turned off Sponge Bob. More likely, though, JackMan has pinched her under the table or she's bumped her head trying to bite his leg. Then, Biggy will raise his voice and my palms will start sweating. Next, I dissociate altogether. It's not pleasant. But oddly enough, it's like childbirth: I always sort of forget, from meal to meal, just how painful it is.

Not tonight. I'm throwing in the towel. I intend to remember. Here, you see a man who sat down without his shirt, a boy who is preparing to tell his little sister where steak comes from, a girl who just finished burping the alphabet and is currently making aluminum foil animals, and a chihuahua who---does it matter?

(Note the absence of George. Smart girl.)

From this point, they're all on their own.

6 comments:

minus five said...

i had a lot of memorable family dinners myself. but i don't think you should stop them because then what would your kids have to tell their kids about?

one of my favorites was when we sat down to eat and the light fixture above our dinner table was also just below the upstairs bathroom and it slowly began to fill up with poop and pee. my sister's doing.

as a matter of fact, i think i'll create my own entry on this exact story.

so in honor of great stories, you can't stop the family dinners. in fact, you should consider having more of them.

Biggy said...

For the record, I honestly had not even realized I forgot to put my shirt back on. That happens when you have a mowthegrass/cookthesteaks/buildaplayhouse/dealwithwife/moutainbike/yellatdogs kind of day.

A said...

uh oh, Biggy, you're in the doghouse. Personally, when I saw this photo before reading the post, I thought it was a nice, bbq style, Southern family dinner. It reminded me of when we used to take a break from swimming in the pool to scarf down whatever my mom had made. I don't obey the 15 minute rule. So there's that.

Anne-Davnes said...

That is too funy, Tania. My mother would have shit bricks with all those condiment containers on the table. And I am now the same. There is a pretty container to be filled for every side dish, sauce or condiment. Now my husband is corrupted as well.

I also suffered pinches under the table and elbow wars with Peter who sat at my right.

Tania Rochelle said...

I LIKE all the condiments on the table. In fact, I like everything to do with condiments. Greg likes to open the fridge in front of me and stand there counting the bottles of salad dressing aloud. He thinks this shames me, but it really reassures me.

Anonymous said...

no kind of southern i know- i'm glad to hear it was an accident - the shirt- that is-

that freaks me out - being a real southerner

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