Bring back the good ole’ days: Suppertime at the Gards

I believe we are in desperate times, people. And desperate times call for desperate measures. And so it is with great verve and energy that I issue a battle cry for action.

It is time we took back what is rightfully ours, families of the world. It is time we re-claimed our rights to that all-important evening hour- a time once known as supper, which held the power in its reach to gather together people from diverse activities and places and in so doing, press the pause button on whatever other all-important, pressing concerns might have been going on at the time.

It’s time we got our supper hour back, good families. We need to come home.

Now. I don’t know about you, but I am not issuing this campaign because I am a glutton for punishment. I am no fool. Supper hour is not fun. There are fights which break out. Children whine about food choices. I get indigestion. Yada yada yada. The list goes on. And yes. I realize that there are many, many other variables at play here, too. And to add further fuel to the fire, I also realize that supper hour is also known as witching hour in some households with children under the age of five.

To be certain, there are parents who would rather hold their head over a whirling toilet bowl full of ‘who-knows-what’ than try to make their sanity last through the first shout out to ‘gimme the ketchup…and NOW’. I know. I am that mom. But still. I feel deep inside the recesses of my stone, cold heart a calling back of sorts. And it is an ache, really, for a simpler world. One in which the family all gathers round the sprawling table for an evening spread. Easy banter. Smiling faces. The chink of silverware as it hits the plate. Gulps of milk to wash it all down.

Wheretofore did these sounds all but disappear, my dear Martha (Stewart)? Where did it all go, Good Housekeeping magazine? Have we lost them entirely, my own dear Mother?

Tonight. The girls and I arrived home to the smells of spicy sausages. Call me absolutely crazy ( I know), but the last couple of days I have forgone my lunch break so as to slip home and throw some meat into the slow-cooker. Yesterday, it was some steaks. Today, I smothered two different varieties of homemade sausages (okay, store-bought ‘homemade’) with Sweet and Spicy hot sauce and a little more of this and that. And I threw the cover on before heading back to work at my day job.

At about 4:45, the two youngest and I arrived home to the smells of supper. And I felt this internal release as if I was a wind-up toy and the key had finally been released. I was home. It was supper. Let the games begin.

Now. You might be asking. Where was the other half of the good ole’ fam-damily. Well, one child was at gymnastics. And two others were at hockey. And what time was this, pray tell? Um…, you got it: 5:00 until 6:00. Supper hour.

So, I know. This is our life. We are on the road. In a rink. At a meeting. In a club. At school. Anywhere but home. Guilty as charged. I am writing this one for ME.

I need me some old-fashioned suppertime charm.

So here’s what really happened. While we waited for the other half of the family to return home, the girls and I ate our supper. And the plan was that the other three would eat when they arrived home at 6:00. But again, there was this knowing feeling inside me that I just couldn’t shake: is this what I want to do with my life? Is this the way supper was meant to be? Is there any chance that supper hour can be taken back and reclaimed as lost territory?

So here’s what happened next. I had to leave at 5:45 p.m. to pick up the one who was at gymnastics, and when I got home Husband mistakenly thought we all hadn’t eaten and had the table set for 6 (“Dreamer, nothin’ but a dreamer…”).

And that’s when the thought crossed my mind: we can do this. We can have ‘something’ together. It doesn’t have to be supper to make this work. So I thought fast and came up with the perfect plan. Hot chocolate. We could all have hot chocolate together. And isn’t that just the perfect replacement anyway for the evening meal?

Works like a charm.

And while there really is no substitute for that all-important evening meal, hot chocolate works in a pinch. And it’s really all about the gathering anyway, is it not?

At least that’s the view from here.

A Hug Takes But a Second

A hug takes but a second. But that is hard for a big brother to understand, let alone tolerate. And she is tormenting him. Mercilessly. Arms wrapped around his waist in a vice-grip. He allows her for but a moment longer, and then I can see that he’s had enough. He says something smart- words that might sting if not interrupted with another distracting thought or action. She runs out of the room, looking for another body to touch. To cling to. To tease.

What a little monkey.

But there are no takers. Everybody’s just too busy tonight. Nobody is interested in bending over for a hug. A snuggle- a squeeze. I stand there at the sink and I take it all in.

“C’mere,” I say. “I’ll hug you.” She runs into my arms. And then we hold each other for a few short minutes.

“How come you never ask me for a hug? ” I then say, after we’ve both had our quiet moment of loving one another. “Why don’t you ever want to hug me?”

“You’re never there…you’re always too busy, she says simply, without flourish.

I feel slightly stung. I am the mother. I should be good at this by now, four kids later. And she, the baby. I should be the one she runs to first. Shouldn’t I?

But truth: often I’m not. And she’s right- I am too busy some of the time. Cleaning, cooking, nagging- you know the drill. And to be honest, sometimes- I just don’t have the energy. The gumption’s gone

But a hug takes just a second.

We walk, she clasping my neck while I make my way into the formal sitting area where the fireplace in winter often cozies the room with warm embers and soft glow. I sink into a chair, and she leans into my chest. We re-adjust- she’s bigger now than I last remember. I have to hold her differently to make it work. But we can do this. Because a hug takes just a second. One, two counts- and the moment is over. And she’s gone again- off to do what six-year old’s like to do best. At any given moment.
And yet- tonight. Right now- I am so glad I took the time. So glad I held her close this evening. After all, a hug takes but a second.

I am like most mothers eternally busy. I have lots to do, and then some. I often leave myself to the very last, so lately I’ve been focused on reclaiming the vestiges of my former myself. Which is to say, I am all for moms getting perspective. Something I haven’t always been good at doing myself. I am all for moms who also know when pulling back and letting go is the best choice. And I am all for moms who don’t take themselves too seriously- who don’t try too hard to be perfect and who accept themselves for who they are, warts and all. I am all for mothers who are ‘people’ first. Who love who they are and are proud to chase their dreams.

Because sometimes we mamas just get lost in this parenting gig- and we wake up twenty-five years later and wonder who we are. We wonder: what’s our purpose now?

I am not for that kind of mothering.

And yet. Sometimes in justifying and then accepting my mothering status as ‘good enough’, I forget that we mamas can never really quite ‘get enough’ of these precious growing up days- these moments, these years. They are fleeting. Momentary. They are ever so fragile and brief. And while I realize I have limits and boundaries around what I can and cannot do- a hug takes but a second. A smile is just a breath. A kiss is but a instant.

And then it’s gone.

When I remember it just like this, that all our moments are just precious slips of eternity, then it’s more than doable: it’s magic. Getting enough of all those little moments is what we live for. It’s what makes those other less than stellar moments of our day all the more vivid and real. It makes our life less a project and more a story. Because each moment then becomes a piece of the puzzle. A tile in the mosaic.

These are the days of our lives, these living years. They are what really count- they are the big picture.
May we never forget to seize the little opportunities in life that make all the difference.