Some of the fondest memories of my youth have to do with the weekly Sunday dinners we had at my grandparent’s house, about 2 miles from our home on Claremont Avenue in Chicago. My mother was an only child and during her early days, the family had a habit of sharing Sunday evenings together, no matter what. After Mom and Dad got married and started to have their own children, the tradition that had been started a generation earlier continued.
No matter what we were doing the rest of the week, and by the way, we usually had dinner together each evening, Sundays were special. They were family evenings. Late in the afternoon, we would head over to Grandpa’s house and all of us would sit together in the living room and talk. My grandmother and my Auntie Lou, who lived with my grandparents, would fix dinner while Dad, my brothers and I would tell Grandpa about our week. Mom would be dividing her time between the two groups; working with her own mother and also talking with her dad.
Sometimes when we arrived, Grandpa was still in the basement working in his shop and I would head down there to greet him. His shop was a special place; kind of like being in the inner sanctum. Years later, I have most of his tools and to this day, it is tough for me to work on a project without thinking about those days in his basement. There’s a ton of history there. It’s where I learned about nature, and tolerance for people, and leading the family and about mistakes that my grandfather had made in his life – cautions that he passed on to me.
We always sat in the same places at the dinner table. Grandpa at one end – Grandma at the other end. I was on Grandpa’s left, Dad was across from me, and the rest of the family filled in the table. Mom was always to my left, across from Ken, and then Doug next to Ken. Always the same – never different. And things were rather formal. A platter held the meat that Grandpa would cut after sharpening his knife. We even had individual salt holders for our celery and everybody also had their own engraved napkin ring with a cloth napkin.
No cutting corners – Grandpa wouldn’t hear of it. It was a high standard and we were expected to maintain it. Of course, we said grace and were never allowed to leave the table without asking permission. I thought it was tough at the time, but frankly, those traditions are so ingrained in me that they are hard wired for the rest of my life. It gave me a standard of excellence that I have come to emulate and desire for our family.
I thought about all this tonight as Kristin and the kids came over for Chinese dinner. When our own children were younger, we also shared Sunday evening dinner together each week. We never believed in Sunday evening activities outside the home because we thought the anchor of a family meal was more important. Especially now, we believe that the kids need a strong sense of family – and we are committed to providing it. Sunday dinners have become a dependable part of the week, just like they were in the old days when I was a youngster.
The boys must exhibit good manners, practice table etiquette, engage in conversation, participate in grace and become contributing members of the dinner experience. And yes, they must ask for permission to leave the table; and carry their dishes to the sink when they are finished. While most of the time we order in rather than cook dinner here, the expectations for the experience never vary. The kids really look forward to having a recurring family event and they are more anchored after dinner each week.
One of the other things I always remember is sitting to my grandfather’s left – and now, two generations later, I am the grandfather and my oldest grandson is sitting to my left. Wow – talk about deja vu….. I now happen to see the world through my Grandpa’s eyes and realize how important it was that he invested in me – the same way I am pouring my life into the boys. It’s almost like a sacred trust – these young lives are so fragile and they have to get a good foundation.
The verse for tonight is from 1 Tim 5:8, where Paul is speaking. We are told, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” That’s some pretty strong stuff – worse than an unbeliever? God must really value the time we invest in our families……
My encouragement tonight is to let you know that you can be a great role model for the younger generations. Things today aren’t as rigid as they were in the old days, but sometimes a little consistency is good and there should be a time during the week that families can rely on a stable time together. My prayer is that you will be the role model that God wants you to be and that several generations from now, the memories created today will still be fresh and in the forefront of the minds of your children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. Because God loves it when we take care of our families – even at Sunday evening dinner… Grace and peace,