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  • Writer's pictureHeather Morrison-Tapley

The Ritual of the Dinner Table

Our dinner table. Rituals held nightly :)

We have a red bench. (On the far side of the table in this pic). I bought it 18 years ago at an antique shop. My two sons have sat on the same sides of that bench at the dinner table ever since they were old enough to scramble up there at about 2 years old. It comes up often at dinner that I can never get rid of that bench because they will always sit on their sides even when they are adults and come visit me. Kids know the importance of ritual. Rhythm. Routine. When my mother died 3 years ago and my father downsized, my siblings and I got to chose things we would like to keep from the huge 1799 farmhouse my parents had retired to years before. There were many expensive pieces of art and furniture. But one of the things I wanted most was the kitchen table from my childhood home. Refinished years ago, but still chewed up on one leg by our favorite dog Lucky as a puppy. With pen marks in it from countless homework assignments done there. Even lots of small half moon shapes my brother told me are from playing quarters at a secret party once when my parents were out of town. A generation of memories are at that table, and now it is in my home, it is where my children do their homework and eat all their meals and sit and talk and play cards and layer a new layer of ritual, memory, roots. My family now is different than the one I grew up in. It is a family that is blending. Sometimes dinner is just me and my boys. Sometimes me, my boyfriend and my boys. Sometimes me, my boyfriend, his two daughters and my boys. Our dinners expand and contract like a living thing. But the constant is, that dinner table. And every single night, even if I have worked late and rushed home, we have a sit-down dinner at that table. This is the great American tradition that for many of us is dying. We need to give it CPR. We need to save it and revive it. There are many studies showing that kids who eat dinner at a family table are happier, do better in school etc. But studies aside, we are a culture with so few rituals left. Dinner at the table may not seem like it qualifies for Ritual status, but it does. Big time. It is something repeated over and over, something with meaning and predictability and connection. It is when even my almost teenaged son talks about his day. It is when we can play “high low” and each say what was the high of our day and, you guessed it, the low! It is a sacred ritual in my house, carried out on the altar of my childhood dinner table. Sometimes the offering is humble, I work a lot and I don’t really like to cook. I’m not going to lie, fish sticks and peas qualify as dinner in my house. Stouffer’s lasagna and salad is another. But the ritual of coming together, putting all phones away (there is a full and strictly enforced ban of phones at the table!) and having that safe, nourishing, sharing experience together is profound. Even when I lived alone for many years, I would set a table when I ate. It felt self-loving and nourishing. Of course, millions of us still do carry out this ritual of dinner at the table, but for those of us who let it slide once, then a few times, then more until it is a rare thing to sit all together at one time and connect, lets revive it. Let’s recognize it as significant and powerful. Let’s all make new scratch marks and stains on the table in our home that, years from now, we will read like an old book. Pages and pages of memories that we won’t be able to make later. They need to be made now. One page, one daily meal, at a time. #dinner #family #kids #ritual #stonefeatherfire #memories #love #food #tradition #home

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