Last Sunday we had a marvelous dinner, smack dab in the middle of the afternoon, all seven of us around the table. No one was at work, no one was at camp, no one was at school. We set up a table in the living room, which made it feel all the more like Thanksgiving, and we ate barbeque chicken and potatoes and talked. The talking is the part I will always remember.
And it actually began the night before. A few of us were piled on my bed upstairs and the question was asked, "Can you rate each member of the family on how 'nice' they are?" This strange request reveals a few things about our family: We love personality quizzes (even the Which _________ Character Are You? ones), AND we view life much too competitively. Not only do you need to say if I am kind, but am I kinder than the next guy. That is important. Some of us loved this...those of us who were in the top two or three of everyone's list. Some of us had a different experience, but all of us found it very interesting. One thing we learned is that "nice" is a decidedly subjective word. Opposite of mean? Gentle? Generous? Is it nice to family, nice to outsiders, nice to the masses? And where does blunt speech come in? As a famously blunt person, this was of great interest to me. Another person in the family (who will remain anonymous) was very concerned that skeletons in the closet not be allowed in the consideration of kindness. "Judge me as the (wo)man I am now, not the shoe throwing, angry kid I was before." I am all for judging based on the most recent version of me. Eventually we went to sleep, but my guess is we all thought about kindness as we lay there in the dark.
So on Sunday, as we passed the chicken and potatoes, the kindness scale came back up. It was obviously not a comfortable subject for some, so my peace loving son switched it to the talents of each family member... which then slowly changed to things we simply love about each other. Everyone got their turn. Details were discussed. It was an unplanned, encouraging, real and never-to-be-forgotten time.
We have seen the weak links in our family chain stretch in the last year. We have been hurt, disappointed, scared and worried about each other, sometimes for legitimate reasons but sometimes simply because life is changing and that is intimidating. As a mother this has been humbling, but I do believe we saw with different eyes on Sunday. And we told each other what we saw. And we could hear it.
Madelaine leaves tomorrow. We've had a few short weeks of everyone being home. It is amazing what can happen in a few weeks. Or in one dinner on a hot Sunday afternoon.