table talk

(Read in church, Sunday, October 17, 2010, Children’s Sabbath)

I am a child of statistics.  They say children who eat dinner at the table, with their families–even one night a week–are less likely to smoke, drink, do drugs, develop eating disorders.  We are more likely to do well in school, eat our vegetables, and learn big words.  Kids who eat with their parents are 40% more likely to earn As and Bs, read for pleasure, and do their homework.  Check, check, and check. Yep, I am a child true to the statistics.

My family ate around a table together every night.  Most nights, we sat around the table in the kitchen, with the news playing quietly in the background.  Wednesdays our family grew–eating church meals with an extended church family–though I had to share my pastor-dad with a host of other faces and needs and wants, though most weeks it was more blessing than burden to literally share my family.

Sunday nights our laps were our tables, and the news was replaced by football or Touched by an Angel (for the record, neither were my first choice)—and the meal replaced by microwave popcorn. (You know I’ve bonded with lots of pastor’s kids over the ubiquitous bags of microwave popcorn that stood in for Sunday night dinner.  Must’ve been one of those classes they taught dad in seminary–but I stopped teaching by the time I got there.)

So I’m a child of statistics.  We gathered around a table for dinner.  We were by no means the stuff of happy-family sitcoms.  We came grumbling, worried, over-worked.  We came crying, sad, and tired.  We even came screaming (okay, maybe that was usually me or my sister).  But more nights than not, all four of us came to the table.  We exchanged the usual conversation–I’m sure you know it well:

–How was your day?
–Fine.
–Did you learn anything?
–No.
–Do you have any homework?
–[shoulder shrug]

So while many nights came and went and it felt like all I was getting out of these family dinners was one more reason to roll my eyes at my parents, the truth is, I can’t imagine family any other way than around a dinner table. Isn’t that the beauty of it?  That family creates the safe place where you can come grouchy, lonely, angry—but yet share a table, share a meal, share the exhaustion of a busy week? All that stops, even for 30 minutes over a plate of spaghetti in the shared space with those who love you.

Now the context has changed.  I come home for special occasions, and my parents are now married to other people.  What hasn’t changed is the table.  We still gather around a table and share meals and conversation (these days I generally offer more than shoulder shrugs). When I am most homesick, I long for a warm meal around a quiet table with the safety and love of my family within arm’s reach.  Now when we gather around the table, we may still come lonely, and even angry, but we gather and we linger: we talk longer, we share deeper, we laugh louder.  We don’t rush off to catch more re-runs on t.v., or to finish calculus homework.  We sit and eat and share.  The table of my childhood became the table of my youth and young adulthood.  Around that table we shared laughter and welcomed the family and friends.  The table witnessed tears over things as trivial as calculus homework (though that might not sound so trivial to some of us!) to the pain of heartbreak and uncertain dreams.  The table witnessed our growing up and our growing together, and it is still the table that gathers us and brings us home.

 

oy vey.

talk about waking up on the wrong side.
it all started with a pounding headache, which should have been my cue to roll over and lay still for another hour.  i stubbornly forced myself to the gym, though did not have the wherewithal to run.  (or much of anything as it turns out.)
I felt all sorts of out of it the following several hours.  I thought I had enough time to get lunch at one of my favorite places with a couple of my favorite people, but didn’t get out of the department on time, so we went somewhere faster (though also good).  I was in such a rush to get to my car and get there (also: hungry), i headed straight to where my car was.  Or so I thought. I could not find my car. (Thank Jesus for clickers.)  The clicker though didn’t seem to be worked because I could not hear the beep-beep.  I resorted to the PANIC! button, because, clearly, I was on the verge of PANIC! (also: hungry)  No honking or flashing lights.  However, there was an empty parking spot right where I began to convince myself I had left my car. Except it was empty.  No way my car got towed, so clearly my car had been stolen. Yep. That had to be the most obvious answer. I go to call Jen, to inform her we would be calling the Police instead of eating sandwiches.  As I continue to roam, and her phone is ringing, she picks up, I look up, and there is my car. In the row behind where I had been aimlessly pointing the PANIC! button. Awesome. Crisis averted.

Headache continued to persist as did general out-of-it-ness.

It wasn’t all bad.  The weather was beautiful. I wrote a paragraph of my dissertation (these days that feels major), and had a delicious dinner and satisfying conversation.

Also, headache gone.

Autumn Mix (candy corn not included)

(For my sporadically-routine seasonal mixtape.)

Reflections on Autumn (in lieu of liner notes)

Autumn comes differently in different places. I talk a big talk about missing the Northeast, waxing nostalgic for days pulled from yearbooks, turning leaves, the glowing orange of sunsets creeping earlier by each passing day, blankets spread across fields, with leaves crunching under the weight of recumbent bodies.  And I do miss all of that.  It’s irreplaceable, really.  Especially if one is lucky enough to experience this picaresque autumnal scene amidst the backdrop of a collegiate campus.  (“There’s just something about…”)  Returning to Texas manifests a whole other level of appreciation for Autumn.  I recently remarked over beers in mason jars that to have lived through–nay, suffered through–a Texas summer is to comprehend despair. To wake up to brutal heat and oppressive humidity, and live with it well past bedtime.  If we could be awake all hours of the day we would know it doesn’t actually leave.  It’s a good thing we sleep, because then we can hang on to a glimmer of hope that maybe the weather changes at night, but just not conveniently to our sleep schedule. And it’s that. Day after day. The lawn dries up. There’s the annual cycle of water emergencies. Summer in Texas is like Winter in the north. No one wants to leave their homes because the sun, the heat, the humidity has piled up outside (like the snow) and it’s just easier to stay inside, turn the air down, and wait till it passes.

When Autumn comes to this latitude, I find myself responding as I do to the impending summer when I’ve lived with Yankees.  The lows are in the fifties–we’re no where near the first frost yet.  The highs are in the eighties–maybe even 90.  And that’s jeans weather down here.  Fall means pants with flip flops and t-shirts down here.  Sweaters and scarves are still a thing of hope (“the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul, / And sings the tune without the words”) and yet, it’s enough.  It’s enough to be able to sit outside; it’s enough to ride with the windows down; it’s enough to pull the pants off the shelf and leave the skirts on their hangers for a while.

Continue reading