The other night my husband was in the living room watching one of those nature shows. He has no problem with violence on TV: grizzly bears fighting to the death over territory, crocodiles crunching down on their four-legged catch-of-the-day…
“Hey, come look at this, Hon!” he called to me.
I peeked around the corner, and my eyes immediately misted over at the peaceful, domestic scene before me. A family of big cats, of some sort, were gathered around their meal while golden Serengeti grasses waved in the background. Two cubs played tug of war near-by and a third lapped lazily from a small puddle beside his parents.
“Aawwhh,” I said, putting on my glasses and sitting next to my husband. “See? Even wild animals enjoy the ‘family table.’”
Suddenly, one of the adults growled menacingly. The other, rose and backed away from the bloody, fly-covered carcass — but not before tearing off a chunk of red flesh. The two Cubs dropped their meaty bone, snarled, and pounced on one another. The third, continued lapping from the red puddle — while buzzards circled above.
“Remind you of anything?” asked John, laughing.
“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
‘The dinner hour’ was sacred at our house. It was one of the few demands I made. The telephone and television were off limits. I didn’t get upset when I heard the term, ‘dinner police,’ (unless it came from my husband.) Gathering around the ‘family table’ gave us an opportunity to talk about the day. The cooking might not have been gourmet, but there were candles, soft music, and sometimes even fresh flowers.
At its best, dinner time was laughter, kids throwing out one-liners, reciting a favorite poem, or John sharing an interesting article from the paper. It was informative. During one such memorable meal, a son casually mentioned that his brother’s name had been announced over the office intercom that afternoon (naturally, we stopped chewing) for achieving the highest SAT score in his school. Another son shared that a half-dozen boys from his class had been kicked out of assembly for booing the principal. We were relieved that he wasn’t one of them. It was at another such dinner that we learned our fourteen-year-old son had a girlfriend, and had been invited to a ‘boy-girl’ party at her house that Saturday night. I made it a point to remember her name so that I could call her mother for details.
I admit that, despite good intentions, the dinner hour didn’t always live up to my expectations. Conversation sometimes amounted to ‘pumping’ close-mouthed sons, and getting little more than a grunt. At such times, my husband would shoot me a look that said, ‘We could be watching the evening news!’
At its worst, the dinner table was an indigestion-inducing battle-field, with picky eaters, sibling rivalry, and a father criticizing table manners.
Things were heading south fast for the Serengeti cat family so I headed for the door, saying to John, “And for your information, we hardly ever had flies! Or fresh blood! And buzzards never circled above our table!”
He didn’t hear me; he was too busy laughing.