Um, right now the kitchen is not "the cosiest place that I know." I'm still in the process of painting the combined kitchen and office in our home. It's slow-going, as I'm moving the desk, file cabinet, and computer/printer table around as I work in certain parts of what is not a large area to begin with. Today I just couldn't face it. There is a cloud cover that I can point to as a partial excuse for my lack of project gusto, but really I preferred doing other tasks today. Michael is planning on being in the office on Saturday so I hope that can be my big push.
I saw my favorite childhood book on the shelf last night and scanned this page. It is from THE BUMPER BOOK - A harvest of stories and verses for children, copyright 1947 (before I was born). Unlike many of my other books enjoyed around ages 3-7, this one has only one page with writing/drawing on it. On the front page of THE BUMPER BOOK I wrote "To Lydia" (except I used my first name) in brown crayon. This book's nearly-pristine condition must be a testament to my love for it.
Do you find it interesting that the drawing doesn't particularly indicate this as being the kitchen of a rich family, yet the boy's parents "dine later in state" (what kind of term is that?) with meal having been prepared by Mary the cook, and served by Susan the home waitress? All that after the boy dines in the kitchen on his favorite food, that lacks adequate nutrition as a steady diet, with Nurse standing by supposedly approving the meal! Good god what a quirky peek, truth or fantasy, at American life in the late 1940s-early 50s, while families are derided these days for not eating together as we did some decades ago.
Come to think of it, when I was a kid having this book read to me and reading it myself my sister and I did dine together in the kitchen with our combination babysitter-cook preparing, serving, and cleaning up while my mother worked her six-day shifts at Harold's Club in Reno. It's likely that I took this little verse totally at face-value then. It was only later, after our mother married our stepfather and they settled into more regular day shifts, that we sat together as a family for nearly every dinner for years. Think I have happy memories about this charmed family circle at table? Nuh-uh, I do not. My stepfather thought I was too thin and demanded that I clean up everything on my plate. I was made to sit chewing a final piece of beef until well after all the juices in the meat were gone, my small jaw was exhausted and my tongue raw from the dry meat scraping around my mouth. That happened night after night.
After we cycled through that particular youthful period and I moved on into my teens we came upon a time when my mother had left dealing in the casinos and had found herself -- found her self-esteem -- in progressively higher positions in the large office where she worked. That was great for her, but she felt that the family should be made to suffer through her entire eight-hour work day in a barrage of playbacks condensed into our family dinner time. It. was. miserable. for. me. I had my own world going on inside my head, my own agenda and interests, and I never forgave her for bulldozing over that hour of my day. Interestingly, some years ago I mentioned to my sister how awful those dinners with her office talk were and she said she hadn't felt that way. I'm sure there's a lesson in that for me but I haven't figured it out yet.
And you? Were you raised with family dinners around the table each night, or most nights? Is that something you have carried forward into your family life now? If so, does everyone share about their day, do you watch TV without conversation, or does one person usually run the conversation? Is eating together as important as family "experts" claim it to be? I'm just not sure.
In any case, the boy in THE BUMPER BOOK kitchen continues to celebrate his own good thing on through the ages and in doing so he brings delight to my heart . . .
I'm editing this after initial publishing in order to add a musical tidbit from Shirley Temple, who obviously is enjoying her dinner in a setting not of your family-gathering type.