Dinner Time Becomes Cherished Time

Carley Coe, Journalism 1 writer

The New York Times Magazine celebrates the little things in life through a weekly column called “Letter of Recommendation.” For the opinion writing assignment in Journalism 1, Mrs. Weiss asked the students to follow this style and write about something that they have come to appreciate more during the school closure and stay-at-home orders because of the Covid-19 outbreak. Enjoy! (Here is the link to the New York Times Magazine stories where these students got their inspiration.)

When looking at it, four years is a pretty long time. So many things in life can come and go, can change and evolve. It’s been said that nothing lasts forever and nothing stays the same. That’s true in most cases, except for the nightly routine my family has of eating dinner together as a family.

For the past three months, my family and I have been quarantining together. I come from a household of seven that include me, my parents, my grandparents, and my two little brothers; four adults, three kids. Up until the end of May, my grandmother had been in Florida so it was just me and the boys during the day. Both of my parents, as well as my grandfather, are essential workers, so each of us have very different schedules. We never really interacted with each other up until dinner time.

Before quarantine, I didn’t really understand the purpose of eating together. Most times I found it annoying and rather unnecessary. It was just a weird concept to me. I didn’t understand why needing that time together was such a big deal.

However, one day during quarantine, I wandered into the kitchen. The door was open, a natural breeze mixed with the whirling fan to create a calming sense of cool. The washer and dryer were spinning, creating a buzz that could be heard throughout the entire house. Our glass cabinets overtop the stove were wide open to prevent that steam protruding from the pots and pans cooking food from fogging them up. The lingering aroma of spices filled the air and already sharpened my focus on the upcoming meal. 

As my eyes continued to scan, the large glass wall allowed me to see my two younger brothers playing ball in the front yard. Between their infectious giggles and conversations my other family members were having elsewhere in the house, I realized that dinner was the only time we truly all came together. As I looked at the set table, I thought of everyone’s respected spots and how, even though I was the only one in the room at that moment, everything felt whole and put together. I realized that, even if it was only for ten minutes a day, we came together. Although we all are very different and live totally different lives, dinner has us come together every night and have at least one shared interest, the meal we’re eating. 

My kitchen table is an old, large, round wooden one. It means a lot to my family because of the fact that it has been in my family for at least 60 years. It’s the table my grandmother sat at when she was a child; eating together as a family has been a tradition that started with my grandma, got passed down to my mother, and now is given to us. 

For the past seven months, my grandma was living in Florida. She missed being home so at the end of May she flew up, surprising us all by bringing my uncle, too. He hasn’t been home in four years. For her first meal back she wanted Chinese food, so we all ordered from our favorite Chinese restaurant, set the table, and ate together as a family for the first time in months. All of us sat there in our family dinner circle for at least an hour and a half. We talked, we laughed, we shared silly stories and memories. This will always be important.

Quarantine has made me realize how important genuinely coming together as a family is. Spending time and talking to the ones that will always be here for me no matter what is something I need to value and prioritize more. As scary as it is, I’m growing up and ultimately moving out soon. There’s going to come a time when my grandparents won’t be around, and because of them I want to carry on the tradition and routine of eating with the family I will create one day,  blood-related or not.