This post is one of my all-time favorites from the archives, about making memories with your children. It is even more poignant to me now that both of the boys in the story have left home for
college. Since there are thousands more readers of This Lovely Place than when it was written, I wanted to share it for today’s audience.
Late afternoon shadows crept across the barren grass in the yard. Two teen boys were just returning from their paper routes in the neighborhood, cheeks red from the chilly wind. Three little girls had finished the bath that was an excuse to play with dolls in the water and were dressed in their princess pajamas, wet hair dripping. The supper hour had come.
The menu was planned and it was a favorite quick meal—tomato soup, cheese and crackers. There was a strong temptation to direct one of the boys to heat it up and set it on the table so I could finish my work in the den. But suddenly my heart was pricked by the urge to create a memory, not just throw a meal on the table. My husband had been gone for many days and we were feeling his absence. I had been “getting by” on meals eaten in shifts between errands, activities and appointments.
The first order of business was a cloth on the table. Not only does it add warmth and color to the table, it cuts down on the clank and rattle of dishes and silverware. The centerpiece was a heart-shaped ceramic bowl surrounded by three red leftover Christmas votives. The little candles were lit, and they cast a cheery red glow. Then the magic began to happen.
A little brown-haired girl with a sprinkle of freckles across her nose entered the kitchen and exclaimed “Ohhhh, that’s pretty!” Her green eyes widened as she took in the scene. She offered to set the table and busily began to brush crumbs off the chairs. While I stirred the soup on the stove, her sisters joined her and set to work, laying out food and gazing at the candles. We got out the little apple glasses and pitcher that are seldom used, to match the red theme on the table.
Soon the boys came in from the cold and helped to stir the soup and rinse the glasses. Everyone began talking about when we first moved here seven years ago, laughing about what they thought of the move at their young age. We gathered at our places, and since some family members were gone, the little children got the privilege of sitting in chairs instead of the bench. The chatter and reminiscing continued through a lovely, simple meal of tomato soup.
How close I came to missing that special meal! We were a minute away from a quick bowl of soup on a bare, cold table with a package of crackers as a centerpiece. You’ll notice that the menu didn’t change or get more elaborate. The only unusual thing about the food was that we had chocolate milk instead of the usual water. The decision to go the extra mile, simple though it was, made all the difference.
Ordinary days are so, well, ordinary. We are busy, to be sure, and we cut corners and look for shortcuts. I’m all for ways to make home management easier and more efficient.
The effort required for a big result in making memories with your children is usually small, yet we put it off or never do it.
We keep meaning to, then the days and the months and the years pass, and we never got around to it. We are left with regrets and a wiser perspective.
Making Memories With Your Children at Meals
Children of all ages enjoy being involved in setting a lovely table. Everything from Lego creations to scenes made with sticks and flowers can brighten the center. Candles of all shapes, sizes and colors cast a warm glow and create a feeling of “just for me?” special atmosphere. A collection of vintage tablecloths from the thrift store, bargain cloths from the clearance aisle and even pretty sheets add variety. Life is too short to save the special china and crystal for holidays. Use it on a regular basis for the most important people in your life.
The only life you can live is today, ordinary though it may be. Go the extra mile and do the little things that bring magic to ordinary days, for this is what love and life are made of.
*The title of this post also happens to be the title of one of my favorite Hallmark movies.