Monday, September 26, 2011

Family Dinner

The three of them, friends since age 5, at just past ten on a Sunday evening, on the wide sidewalk in front of a row of brownstones, romping and playing as they always have, outlined by the streetlamps, the three of them laughing, laughing.

The gathering was last minute and spontaneous. Dinner had been had around a table clothed in vintage fabrics that made me think of a French country kitchen. The crockery was homemade by our host, a ceramic artist of great gifts, the meal simple and earthy and abundant, brown rice and beans, with feta and peppers and broccoli and seasoned sour cream all wrapped up in rotis, followed by a dessert of perfect green grapes and sweet cold pineapple. I didn't drink wine, just water with ice, and my daughter whimsically dropped grapes into the bottom of the glass. I ate them happily, talking with my friends, basking in the sight of our children, effortlessly close all these years later.

"This is a family dinner," our host said. And she was right. We were coming back together after a far-flung summer. We shared our adventures, sojourns in South Africa, New Orleans, college road trips, summer camp, the drummer boy and his rock band making their first CD. After the table was cleared, the 17-year-olds retreated to the bedroom, the mood in there set with holiday lights strung across the ceiling and snapshots clothespinned like miniature laundry to the cords. The star drummer played his CD for the girls, a very fine sound. He will be playing at a festival for unsigned bands next month, and his band might get signed. They are really that good. We will all be there, whooping.

The grownups meanwhile repaired to the living room, the conversation roaming. We shared college search anxiety and wisdom, comforting and assuring each other but mostly bearing witness. Mostly reminding ourselves that we are accompanied on this ride.

And then it was time to leave. The teenagers still had homework to complete. As we all walked to the car, the boy put his arms around the girls and pulled them to his sides and he rocked them back and forth and said, "These girls are my childhood friends." Just that. But it felt like a moment. His father was gone, his loss four short months ago unexpected and shattering. But this. This was his family, too, enduring and constant.

I want to remember.



  1. What sweet images. What sweet refreshment for the soul.

  2. Fabulous. I had something like this in England this sumer. I visited a college friend, and her three teens plus 13 year old twin nephew and niece. My three kids were in tow, and couldn't really remember our hosts from the last visit about 3 years ago. (I drag them around the UK a lot in the summer!)
    Although it was heaven to sit all day with my friend and her husband in her beautiful garden, the sound of laughter and chatter coming from the kids inside the house was the icing on the cake!

  3. It is good to hear that this boy(on the verge of manhood himself) understands that good friends; good, close childhood friends can be a form of family. God knows how he needs that right now. God knows how you all need it. I am so grateful to know that he is surviving and even thriving and that he has channeled his sadness, pain, anger, and even his joy into a CD! You are all very lucky to have one another.

    Such a simple, yet beautiful evening captured by your sweet words. I am glad that you wrote it all down because now you will never forget.

    Hugs and so much love,

  4. There's nothing better than time spent with people you care about, especially when it's a meal! For some reason being together around a table seems especially significant, sharing nutrition of the body and soul.

  5. Deirdre, i heart you.

    Mark, you have this!

    Ms. Moon, refreshment, yes.

    Expat mom, i know just what you mean. Nothing quite like it, really.

    misha, thank you, friend.

    Debra, i didn't have my camera so i tried to set it down in words. thanks for "seeing" it.

    Steve, you're so right. these are the moments that make us rich. always nice to see you here.

  6. And how lovely that you noticed the "moment-ness" of this, how easily it could have gone unnoticed....

    Thank you for reminding me of the importance of being present, of paying attention to that which doesn't shout for attention but is nonetheless just as remarkable.