The prompt words I saw today moved me to write about wonderful memories around the dinner table at my grandparent’s house. The emotions well up in my heart and mind when I think about all the contributions they made to who I am today. I am so grateful for their not abandoning us when their son, my bio-dad, wanted nothing to do with us. My grandmother was known to have said to my mom, “Just because you divorced my schmuck of a son, it doesn’t mean you divorced us.” I thank G-d for my grandparents influence on my life.
I would spend the long drive to their house thinking about how wonderful, yet different their life was from mine. They were a traditional Orthodox Jewish family who lived their beliefs. I never knew exactly what we were at my house. After my parents divorced, we no longer went to synagogue. When stepdad number one came along we celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas. Somewhere between stepdad number three and four, we ceased celebrating Hanukkah any longer. I was too young to understand the why and how come things changed. There really wasn’t any religion in our house. At twelve, I asked my mom if I could go to some Jewish youth group meetings. She obliged, but it was too late to be one of the group.
I always had a terrific time being with my grandparents. I knew I was loved and I knew they wouldn’t allow my cruel older brother to harass me while I was there. I preferred spending time with my grandparents on regular days more than holidays because there was less stress and less formality. I remember once when my grandmother had made borscht which was supposed to be served hot. Everyone was not at the table on time, and she made a joke about it turning into a cold vichyssoise. The adults at the table cracked up. We kids had no idea if they were laughing about the soup being cold or the fact that my grandmother who never cracked jokes had said something very funny.
I was able to respectfully ask my grandma questions about how her house ran. We had many conversations about Judaism. Grandma was always understanding and never made me feel like I was asking a stupid question. I was curious about how everything matching had a specific time to be used. I was in awe of their having two sets of everyday dishes, two sets of formal dishes, and two sets of Passover dishes. We did not keep Kosher at home. The milchig and fleishig dishes, pots, pans, utensils, and silverware sets were different to make sure of maintaining a Kosher kitchen. You can read more here if you’d like to.
At my grandparent’s house, we would sit around the beautifully set table in the formal dining for dinners. Breakfast and lunch were eaten in the informal dining room. At dinner always had flowers on the table. I actually thought that was a Jewish thing, because I had never seen anyone put fresh flowers on the table for dinner. Imagine my surprise when in home economics we learned all about table setting and flower arrangements. I remember being surprised that people other than my grandparents put flowers on their table regularly and not just for birthdays.
When my grandkids came here (pre Covid) we always ate at the dining room table. I didn’t and won’t allow them to eat in front of the TV. The dining room table is a symbol of family time to me. I have wonderful memories of sharing meals with my grandparents and then my aunt, uncle, and cousin. Of course, we never took pictures of eating at the table. I am grateful for having pictures of amazing Passover meals as an adult. I am grateful for sharing everyday meals and holiday meals at my table with family and friends.