I am old enough to remember the TV show “Leave It To Beaver”. The Cleaver family gathered around the dinner table each evening and shared a meal. June would be looking good in apron and pearls, Ward always fashionable in a sweater and tie, Beaver and Wally well behaved and scrubbed squeaky clean - the very embodiment of the quintessential mid 20th century American family.
My childhood memories of family dinners are somewhat different. I vividly recall the six of us (Mom, Dad, my three older brothers and me) gathered around the kitchen table one evening. Mom had made my favorite: spaghetti and meatballs. Dad got really mad at my brother Steve for petting the dog at the table, and told him to go wash his hands. Steve must not have wanted to, because he forked another meatball and kept right on eating. When the fork was midway to my brother’s mouth, Dad slapped it clean out of his hand.
I can still see it in my mind's eye like a slow motion replay: the graceful arc of the fork as it traversed the entire length of the table, end over meatball laden end. The wide eyed looks of astonishment as it flew through the kitchen airspace, finally coming to rest, meatball first, in my oldest brother’s glass of sweet iced tea. We sat silent, momentarily mesmerized. It started with a few restrained giggles, prompting a chain reaction of chuckling, chortling, and finally unrestrained belly laughter. Dad, as I recall, was not laughing, and moved to the den to watch a wrestling match on one of four channels available on our new color television set.
While not all of our family dinners were as memorable as that one, they were a very important part of the fabric of our family. We would talk about what happened at school that day. Mom and Dad would listen to us and give us wise counsel. It was at family dinner time that I heard my Dad say, “If a man pays you to do a job, and you don’t do the best you can, it’s stealing, same as if you took the money right out of his wallet.” I never forgot that, and I strive to have a strong work ethic to this day.
Statistics show that kids who share regular meals with family do better in school and are less likely to try drugs. Maybe its time we all set the table, turned off the TV, and got back to the time honored tradition of family time around the dinner table.