Table Talk

Oct 02

Below is the first of many personal anecdotes I will be compiling that celebrate the joys, trials, and lessons learned while eating at the family dinner table.  As this age-old custom deteriorates in our fast-paced, hyper-parenting, over-worked society, these written pieces will hopefully re-ignite the desire among families to slow down and enjoy the comaraderie of eating together. 

Eat Your Soup

My body stiffened, and pressing my head against the back of my chair I peered down at the bowl of swamp that had just been set before me.  As pungent steam curled around my nostrils, I clutched my mouth with my right hand and fought the gag reflex.  Locking eyes with one of my sisters, we silently acknowledged this would be a tough one.  A cauliflower could “accidently” fall to the floor, a slice of roast beef fold neatly inside a napkin.  But soup?  There was no faking it.

Mom and Dad sat at their places at either end of the table and began “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…”  Our cue to say grace.  We reluctantly mumbled the words we knew by heart.  I, however, could not summon a single thought of gratitude.  Dad scooped the first spoonful into his mouth.  He closed his eyes for a moment as a smile formed on his green soaked lips, and we knew this was not the last of his homemade pea soup.  He dove his spoon back in, alternating it between his mouth and bowl like it was a vanilla fudge sundae stirred to just the right consistency.  He didn’t stop until his spoon clattered in the Corningware bowl. 

Mom cautioned us to eat before it got cold, but her tone betrayed what she really meant –eat your soup, or else.  Having experienced the “or else,” no one dared utter a word of dissent.  The spoon dangled between my thumb and forefinger as it skimmed across the surface of the soup.  Blinking back tears that threatened to flood the cesspool below, I slurped the broth through my lips.  Holding my breath, it actually didn’t taste quite as bad as I’d expected.   Unfortunately for Brian who was, at four, my youngest brother, the pressure overwhelmed him and he cried shamelessly.  The rest of us rolled our eyes and snickered, distracting us from the soup and igniting an explosion of chatter about the day’s affairs.   Elizabeth received an A in her math test while Allison (suspiciously) had not received a mark in weeks.  Kevin had finally dissembled the family’s radio (and could not figure out how to put it together again), while Dad threatened to halt Brian’s wailing with “a good wallop.”  I quietly slurped my liquefied peas.

It must have been my long sigh of relief that caught Mom’s attention.  “Someone’s ready for dessert,” she announced, retrieving the bowl that I held aloft.  A blanket of quiet rested over the table.  They reluctantly returned to eating soup while I received my dessert of canned pears.  Although it did not seem a fair reward for my efforts, I’d learned one of many valuable lessons that were dispensed at our family dinner table – that the desserts in life were earned.  And many years later, as I faced challenges far beyond the warm comfort of our kitchen table, I would fight my desire to run away by remembering my parents’ guiding words – Eat your soup (or else.) 


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