I feel like every email or story I read or commercial I see these days begins with, “In these uncertain times…” Well, I’m starting the same way because it just makes sense: In these uncertain times, it’s making me appreciate things that I previously took for granted and nostalgic for what was. Everyone is greatly consumed with the everyday obligations of their lives, myself included. But the times that I take a moment (the minuscule amount of time that is as a mom) to think about what I’m most appreciative of these days, one of the things that always comes to mind is Sunday dinner with family.
Growing up, sitting down and eating dinner together with my immediate family happened almost daily. My sister and I usually always had a sporting event or school function happening, but my parents made it a priority for us to “break bread” together without distractions. So the concept of a focused family meal was never a new concept for me. However, because the rest of my family (grandparents, aunts, and uncles, cousins, etc.) lived three hours away the only times we were able to share a meal with the entire family were major holidays or celebrations.
When I began dating my husband, I’ll never forget him telling me how close he was with his grandma. He said that if I had the privilege of joining him for Sunday Dinner at Grandma’s and she liked me, I was “in”. Of course, it became a relationship milestone that made me nervous to the core. He built it up to be this grand event that tons of members of his family attend each week that, while informal, was really important to him. While I don’t remember the meal we ate the first time I attended Sunday Dinner at Grandma’s, I do remember the feeling. The feeling of togetherness and joy. The feeling that I was welcome and wanted. The feeling that this was such a meaningful occasion to each member present. There were uncles, aunts, cousins, sisters, brothers, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even some friends. The food was plentiful and the conversations were life-giving and full of laughs and lessons (of which I wouldn’t realize until later). Whether we were gathered around the table or scattered throughout the house with paper plates in our laps, the interactions and amount of love in the air turned any negative mental state right around.
Sunday Dinner at Grandma’s went on for several years and fill my bucket with some of my fondest memories. While Grandma Connie is now gone, those memories will stick with each member of the family forever. What makes it even more special is that my husband and our boys are now living in her house, that her husband built and she raised her boys in. Every time I’m making a meal that’s fancier than cereal or grilled cheese, I reminisce about Grandma Connie twirling around the same kitchen stirring 10 different dishes while spewing her infectious laugh while chatting with her grandkids. I can still see her Taste of Home cookbook or perfectly cursive handwritten recipe out on the counter. Now I’ll glance over at the recipe basket my mom made for me or pull a recipe from the cookbook we never got to give Grandma Connie that last holiday season and smile. Just the other night while getting ready to sit down for dinner, my husband and I giggled thinking about some of those good ol’ days, like how she used to call us all for dinner in her distinct Grandma Connie voice: “Come on, you guys!” Or the time we made a video of the entire family doing “The Harlem Shake”, with Grandma Connie as the star. Or the fish fries after fishing trips and cookouts after the Indy 500. Or my niece taking her first steps in the same rooms that my boys later did.
Once she passed, my mom decided she wanted to start the tradition of Sunday Dinner for our growing family. My sister-in-law also wanted to keep her Grandma’s tradition alive and host Sunday Dinner as our crazy schedules allowed. Since both of them are fabulous cooks, I never complain. It’s become a tradition that holds such meaning to all of us. To gather around the big table in oneness and bond and just “be”. Sometimes we order pizza and sometimes it’s a smorgasbord fit for the royal family. Either way, our bellies, and our hearts are always full. Now I have new memories to continue filling my bucket.
In a life with little ones, in a world that seems to be on hustle auto-pilot, finding time to “break bread” with family just because can seem like a chore. But I argue that the rest of the days of the week won’t seem like such a chore if you start the week out right. Bring back the Sunday dinner. Make the time with family and friends. Make the side dish or dessert to contribute. Make the memories of Sunday Dinner that will live on for generations.