Gathered Around The Dinner Table

When mom dictated that we were having a “family meeting” my heart would sink.

This never, ever, boded well for the kids.  Me.  Suddenly of the eight of us who were old enough to understand what this meant-eyes would start shifting.  Who ratted someone out?  Who did something that the rest of us would get in trouble for?  What the hell did we do this time?   Okay, I never even thought “what the hell…” when I was a child.  I didn’t know that phrase.   But looking back and adding my vocabulary of now to my childhood then, that’s what I would have said.

It was always in the evening.  And it was always sitting around the dining room table.  In the fancy shmancy dining room.  The one with the gold and black striped wall paper.  This is not a family meeting photograph.  This is my first communion celebration dinner.  I think we had turkey.  Shown here only to give you the proper setting with the wall paper.

I'm the adorable one with the flower in her hair.

I’m the adorable one with the flower in her hair.

So gather around the table we would.  Somber.  Oh so very somber.

Mom always facilitated.   Again, this is my adult wordage.  As a child I probably more thought of her as the ‘leader’.   Or boss.  Or the mad one.   Truth be told I don’t have any recollection of dad talking at these meetings.  Sometimes he wasn’t even there!

And I don’t have any recollection of the meetings  being called for a good reason.  These were not celebratory meetings.  They were ‘oh shit’ meetings.

I remember how nervous I would get.  And what do I do when I get nervous?  I laugh.  Of course I laugh.  And what happens when I laugh?  The others sigh in huge relief.  Why do they sigh in huge relief?  Because once I start to laugh the attention is on me and they don’t have to worry about them laughing.  Oh sweet relief when ever one child was focused on.  The other seven would get a small reprieve.  Of course, in my head, it was me that usually did the relief giving to the others.  I remember mom saying “COLLEEN THIS IS NOT FUNNY”.   I tried so hard to not laugh as I said in total seriousness ” I know it’s not!”

One common topic was our fighting.   I’m sorry.   But who who WHO has eight children and thinks there will be no fighting?   We would have our ethics questioned and morals laid out before us.  Our behaviors would be questioned.   And our attitudes adjusted.  Family meetings seemed to have a heavy agenda.

I don’t remember much discussion.  I remember praying I wouldn’t laugh.  Feet dangling from the chairs.  Or wanting to lay my head on the table.  My arms hanging down on my lap.

If we had been an unusually huge drain on our father we would have to march upstairs, one at a time, and go in and tell dad we loved him.   Dad worked very hard and I think he would feign extreme tiredness to get out of the family meetings.  He was a wise one dad was.

I’m sure there was a purpose to these gatherings.  Obviously I remember them.  Even though I don’t remember the  agenda topics or the specifics.  I remember the total dread of that moment when “family meeting” came out of mom’s mouth.  But there’s no dread in what I brought forward from childhood, and surely from those meetings.  The residual effect of my parent’s parenting, family meeting and all, seem to have a lingering impact.   If respect, responsibility, accountability and dependability were part of the agenda I’m pretty sure the purpose was met.  And I’m grateful.  Now, thinking about those family meetings, my heart no longer sinks.  But laughs.

Thank you Reocochran for our shared comments leading me to think of this.  🙂