The importance of the dining table, particularly in terms of mealtimes with the family, was something that I easily took for granted at first. It’s something to be expected, I guess, with taking the learning of eating at face value during childhood.
Then, years later, came those commercials by a certain locally notable noodle brand which also advocated mealtimes with the family. Said commericals often presented lonely scenes of kids and their parents underneath dim and shadowy lighting plus stiff and feeble (or worse, shouting and distancing – like, there was one commercial where the kid’s side of the table stretched back farther and farther every time his parents shouted with rage) exchanges of words in the midst of clinking and clanking of utensils on food and on the table. Following those scenes would be some advising text or a celebrity endorser reminding about family mealtimes at the dining table being an important part of family life, and they worked well, indeed, even to the point of convincing my parents, as far as I remember.
And although we’re not that consistent in terms of having at least one mealtime together as a family daily, especially since there are factors like us university students tending to spend more time outside the family lately, I think all of us have a significant amount of understanding regarding the value of eating meals with other people. Mom and Dad often call us to eat together when the opportunity is there, and they would even have one of us kids call the rest of the family (and yes, that also includes the extended family and even – back when we had such – the househelp) if there are members who still need to be called. Along with eating second helpings or being reminded to leave over some for those who haven’t eaten yet, we would do things like talking about our recent activities, teasing and reminding each other about our physical fitness, and reminiscing about our younger years.
The value of all those things become more noticeable to me when I eat alone, especially in open places, the silence feeling like a more deafening thing there.
I can remember how my throat easily went dry from all the rapid-fire respiration whenever I hung out with my friends, who would joke and/or ask about who would the “manlilibre” be for our munchtimes if the host’s parents weren’t the ones preparing the food. I can also remember smiling, laughing, and leaning back more and more whenever I discovered and rediscovered memories like how much of a tough and competitive girl my mother was during her younger years, the funny situations my parents found themselves in when they met certain former classmates again after so many years, and all the attention-grabbing stuff that we kids did back when we were more under the care of adults.
Indeed, I have overlooked something so beautifully ordinary. No wonder Pope Francis encourages having good mealtimes with the family as well.
And yeah, I do know that I’ll have to strike out on my own eventually…so I guess I need to work harder and better in terms of making friends and all that while living life outside the family. Mealtimes with trustworthy people contains more delicious eating, after all.
To be honest, though, the struggle I have with trying to make friends outside my family’s house is pretty much the fear of seeing other people’s dark sides, I think. I don’t think that the problem is how the dining table is also a stress relief venue, though. I’ve learned of heavy tales from my family while at the dinner table, and we’ve dealt with that a lot of times without too much trouble, our voices leveled and our faces focused as we try to understand and respond to the situation to the best of our ability, so why can’t I do that as well with people outside my family?
Hm, perhaps it is because I have a hard time forgiving myself whenever I find that I’m unable to form a proper response in delivery and content to people I’m not used to. Burying myself so much in the shame, I begin wishing that people would just stop talking with me or avoid talking near my earshot.
Perhaps it is also because I don’t want to try understanding the other person, especially when they hold beliefs that I don’t like. I put more effort into avoiding their presence rather than seeing how much I can lead them towards better dialogue, lying to myself about how I know everything about what I can really do.
And perhaps there’s my control freak issues messing with me again, going narrow-minded about the people I want to hang out with. I sit down and wait for them to do this and that, but I don’t bother diving into understanding how they work their lives out, making me sink lower and lower into misconceptions and lack of breath because of my weight which increases because of my gloomy laziness.
In other words: Perhaps it’s pride again.
Hmm…perhaps I should go offer some hot chocolate to a housemate in the boarding house sometime?
Well, anyway, God Almighty keep on helping us all. 🙂