I’ve bought very few lottery tickets (being necessarily thrifty), but each time I spent a dollar or two, praying that I’d win “big”, I had a specific fantasy for how I’d spend my winnings… always in the millions, of course.
Remember Miss Ellie on the TV drama, Dallas? I wanted to be her, well, not as old, but matriarch, of the family. I wished for all the trimmings that Southfork afforded. My Southfork, however, would naturally be on a prime piece of property on a WV mountaintop. I’d own the sprawling native stone and timber house, while my family members would live in their own smaller, yet lavish, homes on my property. (I’m always generous in my fantasies.)
Each evening all members would assemble at the big house for dinner. And, I, the grand and oh so respected head of the family would entertain my amazingly articulate and successful family. We’d be such a classy bunch, polite, intelligent, and very functional. In fact, anyone who swayed in the direction of dysfunction would be swiftly guided back to the straight and narrow by my softly genteel admonishment.
Well, isn’t life funny? I got my wish, but way more than I bargained for. (Excuse the use of a preposition to end a sentence.) The Master Planner, Granter of His children’s prayers, somehow failed to get all the details right. How’d that happen?
I am now the matriach of the family. We do have dinners most evenings around the table. The corner of Division and Latulle sure ain’t Southfork, though. I’m not in designer attire, no servants prepare the meal, and the family… well… let’s politely call them a sweet mess.
Yes, it’s a rowdy bunch around the table in the kitchen, not the separate elegant dining room with crystal chandelier I’d envisioned. The group includes my sister who lives with me; her first born adult son, gregarious, but disconcertedly obsessive-compulsive; her second born, proud and loud producer of belches and flatulence, about to graduate from college, magna cum laude, (and who will henceforth be referred to as “Magna”); his girlfriend, former drum major, current diva; and my newly out-of-the-closet adolescent daughter.
Other eccentrics arrive, such as my sister’s ex-husband, a bejeweled, card-carrying member of MENSA; teens moving in a cloud of angst, bodies covered with odd tattoos and piercings; and, too, my organic vegetable bearing ex-boyfriend who keeps hoping, after five years, for a yes when the answer is a firm no. We just drag in additional mismatched chairs and sit, shoulders touching, providing room, food, and acceptance for all.
This picture is so askew. Pizza or a pot of soup on an improperly set table. (I cannot get them to understand the simple concept of FORK, a FOUR letter word placed on the LEFT, a FOUR letter word; and SPOON and KNIFE, FIVE letter words, placed on the RIGHT, a FIVE letter word.) Not linen napkins, but paper towels pulled straight from the roll for wiping mouths, litter the table; and, I the Grand Dame, barefoot and braless, in a faded, stained hand-me-down Curt Cobain t-shirt. Country, not NPR, blares in the background while the diners with messy mouths, vulgar topics, and sarcastic interjections, vie boisterously for attention.
This is not what I prayed for. (There’s that preposition again!) Where’s the refined ambiance of my fantasy? Why am I so tired and my refrigerator so empty? Hmmm…Wait a minute…I do recall my daughter’s ex-boyfriend, heartbroken and sobbing on my shoulder, telling me on his last evening at our home (the night my daughter admitted to him that she found… oh, my gosh… girls more appealing) that he would most miss dinners with the family. He loved the energy that arose from our heated discussions of uncensored and often bizarre topics. And, too, “Magna’s” girlfriend says dinners at her own home are strained exchanges of small talk.
I guess I’ll never be Miss Ellie. It was a lovely fantasy, but would I really trade my life for hers? Nah. These are my peeps, my sweet mess. And, maybe, the Master Planner is fulfilling “their” heart’s longing for a real family dinner at a kitchen table, the head of which provides simple fare and a safe, although raucous, venue for each voice.
I’d like to think that these curiously spawned gatherings may quell more hungers than a feast at a perfectly set table under a crystal chandelier.