As a child, I spent many evenings eating dinner alone in front of the TV. My diet consisted mostly of frozen dinners, canned food, and leftovers. I never complained because I didn’t want my mother to feel bad about our not eating together on a regular basis. She was a single mom who did her best to care for my sister and me. She worked a full time job while attending night classes to earn a degree so she could make a better life for our family. I know that she wanted to spend more time with us, but our financial situation didn’t allow her to. Therefore, she cooked when she could during the week to make sure that we had some homemade food to eat.
However, things were different on Sundays. It was the one day when things slowed down and we were able to spend time together and share meals as a family.
We’d start the day by having a hearty breakfast. I’d wake up to the sounds of sizzling bacon and the aroma of fresh pancakes. Although we enjoyed this meal together, we didn’t linger at the breakfast table because we had to get to church on time.
After church, we’d go to the grocery store to buy ingredients for the night’s meal. My mother gave my sister and me some input on the menu items, but she ultimately made the final decision. I was okay with that because she was an excellent cook and I trusted her judgement.
If my mom had some extra money, she’d treat us to lunch at a restaurant. We could never afford anything fancy, but a Happy Meal was a treat for us. We’d sit in the restaurant talking about the church service. My mother was deeply religious and wanted to make sure that my sister and I understood the sermon. She encouraged us to ask questions and talk about how we could apply the lessons to our lives. These were the moments when my mother felt most relaxed. Sitting in those restaurants allowed her to be free of the stresses of work, school, and meal preparation. It was the one time that she could focus solely on her children.
Later that evening, my mother would start preparing dinner. I loved spending time in the kitchen with her while she cooked. Not only did I get to share unguarded moments with my mother, but I also learned how to cook (a skill that became useful l when I got tired of frozen dinners). Sometimes she’d share some of her concerns about work, money, or family. As the oldest child, I was her sounding board and she trusted me enough to reveal her worries. Her trust in me made it easier for me to trust her with my inner thoughts. Even when I became a teenager, I always felt comfortable talking to my mother about any topic.
When the meal was complete, my sister would join us at the table (she was never interested in learning how to cook). We’d laugh, tell stories, and enjoy a delicious home cooked meal together. Although our time together was short, we cherished every moment. We tried to make them last as long as we could because we knew that things would go back to normal on Monday.
I try to make every meal with my family as special as the meals I had with my mom. My mother taught me that it’s not necessary to have meals together every night. It’s more important to make the most of the times that we have together even if it’s only on a Sunday evening.
Join the conversation: Did your family have meals together when you were a child? Share your thoughts in the comments section or Tweet me with the hashtag #ShareTheTable.
Disclosure: I’m a paid Barilla Ambassador. All opinions are my own.
Main photo by Alice Carrier