So, with the exception of a meltdown-driven cruise through the McDonald’s drive through, Selam and I have kept our Lenten intentions so far–kind of. (The thing about Selam helping to cook–that was really more of a self-improvement regime, and well, it isn’t happening.)
Not eating out has been really hard for Selam. We’ve had lots of discussions about it, about why we aren’t doing it, what lent is, why other people are eating out, why two friends have given up chocolate but she hasn’t, etc.
“Why is eating out so important to you Selam?”
“Because Mommy stays sitting when we eat at restaurants.”
Ouch. She’s right, though. At home meals, I’m up and down, getting more of this, putting away that. I serve both of us from the preparation bowls, as opposed to putting food in serving bowls on the table. It just seemed silly to do that when there were just the two of us. But she’s hit the nail on it. When we eat out, she gets my whole attention.
I’m not entirely sure what to do with that. Do I take up eating out again once lent is over? (not all that healthy for our bellies or our budgets)? Do I put serving bowls on the table, and stop fussing at the myriad small things? I’m not sure. The reality of single working parent is a never-ending number of small things that must be done.
At the camp where I volunteered for so long, the tables don’t have enough room for all the staff. The camp (and its tables) were built imagining one staff-camper ratio, and the reality is something else entirely. So most of the staff hover. They perch, they rotate in and out of chairs. I remember one time a kid was homesick during a meal and I took him off to the side to calm him down. I asked him what he missed most about home, and he said this: “I miss my mom and dad eating dinner with me.” I can’t remember what I did with that–generally there’s a workaround once you know what the child misses the most–you can write letters to dogs, or find a substitute to hear evening prayers. I’m sure I came up with something. But that one line–out of 20+ years of working at summer camps as a staff member or a volunteer–that one homesick camper line sticks out for me, “eating dinner with me.”
It’s no secret that much of Jesus’ incarnational ministry took place at table. Clearly, we’ve made one such meal a sacrament. Churches make mini sacraments of eating together–the pot luck, the barbeque, the church supper. My sweetest memories of divinity school are of meals spent laughing around a table piled high with peanut butter and jelly and hope and empty water glasses. I remember meals cooked in church basements with my college students, eaten on paper plates around giant tables where the scraggly tired and joyful sat. I grew up saying “God is Great, God is Good” with my sister and my mother and my father. My sister picked onions out of whatever my mother made, and my father always, always had bread with his meal. This is what I remember. This is what we remember.
I have to sit at table with my kid more.
If she is homesick someday, I hope her mind’s eye takes her back to that kitchen table, too.
Perhaps, you know, the world ends there. Perhaps it begins.