I figured out something that I wanted to share. Something that if I implemented this into my weekend on a consistent basis – could help me decompress and face another Monday in a much more productive way.
Growing up there were always Sunday family dinners. Though they may not have been EVERY single Sunday – they sure were the majority. It was just understood that on Sunday we would go to one of my grandparents’ homes or someone would be coming to ours. There was always an occasion to be together...it was called Sunday.
Sunday family dinners were always set at 3:00 pm. So most times we arrived at 1:00 pm for what Grandma called the “snackies”. She always had a new appetizer recipe to try out on us from the church ladies or she would lay out one of the old tried and true. Veggies and dip, oyster crackers with seasonings, hot crab dip with slivered almonds, or the cold crab ball with crackers. My mother would help prepare in the kitchen as best she could, Grandma liked to do it herself – shooing people from her kitchen to go sit and relax.
Sunday dinners at Grandma’s were scrumptious. The table always crowded with lots of veggies and sauces, casseroles, mashed potatoes, salads, and main courses that sat atop the pressed linen tablecloth around the china. Grandma had worked for the Department of Agriculture back in the days of the formation of the food pyramid. Nutrition was heavily on her mind and the meals that she cooked and placed on the table were evident of that. In fact, we have a government printed and distributed brochure from the Department of Agriculture back in the 1960’s about nutrition and feeding your family where they used Grandma and Pop with my dad and my aunt in the pictures as the example of what to do. Things were always in their place, portions appropriate. Everything immaculate and pristine.
Most evenings I would watch the coo-coo clock in the kitchen, knowing that once we hit 8:00 pm more than likely we would be heading home since it was a school night. I remember being sorry that it was over. I remember as we approached that time on the clock – Grandma would head to the kitchen to prepare “doggie bags” for us – sending home the extra pie from dessert. We would say our goodbyes and travel 45 minutes home in the dark. It was a relaxing quiet car ride for the most part. Our bellies were full and had spent the day with family.
Sunday dinners with Grandmommy were not the same as Grandma’s house. Grandmommy was my mother’s mother. Her home was not the calm and quiet and neatly decorated home that Grandma’s was. Nope. Her home was cluttered with all things she loved out to be seen and admired. It was also loud with lots of commotion and the sounds of music from the stereo or sports on the television while Granddaddy watched, clanging pots and Grandmommy’s laughter ringing from the kitchen.
Everyone helped put the food onto the table. It was always an incredible amount of food – Grandmommy bragged that no one would leave her table hungry. No matter what was on the menu – the Italian always have pasta in addition. Most times – there was homemade cheese ravioli and Italian sausage, cauliflower puffs, cole slaw – in addition to the fresh pork or roast beef with all of the trimmings. She watched everyone’s plates and kept track of who needed more or who may be falling short of completing the portion deemed for them. She and Granddaddy patted each other telling each other how good it all was. “M M Mmmmm.” And it was…
Again we would approach the 8:00 pm time frame and doggie bags were assembled and off we went into the night to begin our week. Though the atmosphere was utterly the opposite of Grandma's - the feeling going home was entirely the same.
When Mom had our dinners – it was the perfect combination of the two. She worked all week. Hard. Never asking for anyone’s help. She cleaned and polished. Washed and pressed. Scrubbed and shopped. Baked and Cooked. The home was immaculate like Grandma’s with combinations of recipes gathered from both tastes as well has her own placed on a perfectly set linen tablecloth with the china and crystal in extremely large portions. Enough to eat. Enough to send home. Enough for leftovers for us.
The family would stay and visit until the magic witching hour of 8 pm again. Then the house was quiet and cleaned up as the women had cleaned up so well to show no remnants that such a feast had been had. Another relaxing Sunday evening had been bestowed.
But things change. I grew up and had four children. Grandfathers passed away. Grandmothers lived alone managing to take care of themselves as best they could. My calendar became cluttered with all sorts of things that filled our weekends. Sundays were devoted to all sorts of other things – no longer the sacred family afternoon dinner day. I’ve missed those days and think of them often.
I miss those days for many reasons. I miss the togetherness. I miss the food and the smells. I miss their homes and the atmosphere that each demonstrated. I miss my grandparents. I miss who we all were back then. I miss the ideal that family came first. Even if some Sundays you felt forced to attend when you might have wanted to do something else that day – I assure you that in the end – it was a relief to have gone. Something about those Sunday dinners set the tone for the week. At least for me.
Our weekends have just become a crazy, hectic hodge podge of stuff now. From dance competitions to wrestling tournaments to laundry to grocery shopping – Sunday is the catch all. It’s the day to squeeze everything in that you couldn’t do all week. Sunday evenings are not relaxing anymore – they are the few hours that I feel overwhelmed and wring my hands as the hands of time tick towards Monday. I no longer have the satisfied, lounging feeling that I did as a kid.
Perhaps that is it. Perhaps if I were to ask my mother, father and grandparents how they felt on Sunday after all of the dinners – perhaps they didn’t feel all warm and cozy ready to go into the week. Perhaps they as adults still felt rushed and exhausted. Perhaps it was just my perception as a kid. If that is the case then I would like to thank all of them for creating such a wonderful environment for me as a kid that led me to decompress every Sunday. But perhaps they did feel the same way that I did...
This past year has been a particularly challenging year for me as a parent and wife. My husband has accepted a position that requires him to be away from home much more than ever before and my two teens can exasperate me while I continue to homeschool my other two children full-time and teach ballet part-time.
The past two weeks my husband had been gone 8 of the last 10 weekdays. Then upon his return, my daughter had several days of dance competition and performance in a row. I was feeling pretty worn out. So I called for a family Sunday dinner out. Everyone was to return home from their afternoon activities to all go to dinner.
We all piled into the truck. It wasn’t anything fancy. Just Ledo’s Pizza. No fancy tablecloths, china or crystal. No enormous portions. No special recipes. But it was my family. With leftovers and no dishes to do. I thought of all of those past Sunday family dinners.
As we were walking out of the restaurant, I said to my husband, “I could do this every Sunday. I can’t believe how relaxed I feel.”
I think Sunday family dinners are incredibly beneficial. They are a time to reconnect – to leave everything else behind. To remember what is really important. Being together that way is its own stress reducer. No massages, self-help books, relaxation techniques can do for a soul what a Sunday evening dinner with family can do. (I suppose that only applies if you are not the one working hard to host the dinner.)
But with my family where we are right now – I think trying to cook and assemble the Sunday family dinner myself each weekend might very well send me over the edge. Perhaps when my kids have all grown I will be the one to insist upon the Sunday family dinner at my home. Perhaps they will all return with their own families and I will then have the time to put everything on the table for them and start their weeks off in a positive way. Perhaps not. Perhaps they will be entirely too busy with their own children and will not have time to give up a day each week. Perhaps they will find their own way of spending a Sunday family dinner.
I wish I could call Grandma or Grandmommy and say “We will be there at 1 pm – what can I bring?” I wish I could invade my mother’s home for 7 hours each Sunday with the four little hurricanes that I’ve given birth to and have them experience what I was so blessed to have been given all of those years.
But in the meantime – we’ve got Ledo’s Pizza at 7 pm. And for right now – I’ll take that.
Where are you going to go for your Sunday family dinners?
I promise you won’t regret it!