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June 09, 2008

This is how the dinner table works in our house. The food is ready, and Wife is announcing this in her best I-cooked-for-you-people-while-you-all-conspired-to-drive-me-crazy voice. Baby Isaiah is squawking because he came equipped with a special squawk alarm that goes off the moment anyone puts him down. His older brothers are doing a Three Stooges routine around the door, Isaac stopping because he realizes his socks are wet from playing in the creek, Eli bumping into Isaac as he bends to remove the wet socks, sending him sprawling, and Caleb bumping into the door because Eli, in an effort to be our one obedient son, has closed it behind him lest the cat/dog/mosquitoes/stifling heat/snakes get in. Their father, meanwhile, is asking how many fingers of whisky he can pour without setting a bad example for the children.

This is followed by tromping up and down the stairs, as each boy either washes his hands but forgets to pee, or vice versa. Wife is warning them the food will get cold, and ignoring my question about the whisky. I am holding baby in one hand, and a whisky bottle in the other. Isaiah is still squawking, despite being in my arms, both because I won't let him have the whisky bottle, and because he has realized, once again, that while I am generally a big Daddy-barrel of fun, I am not currently equipped with lactating breasts, and this being dinner time and me being stingy with the whisky, he'd just as soon have his mama.

Eventually we make our way to the table with clean hands, and get water cups distributed and napkins placed and the appropriate level of utensil technology before the appropriate little people. Sometimes we even do this without sending Wife into tears. I strap the baby into his seat and stuff into his mouth a spoonful of whatever mush is on his menu. We all sit. There is talking and immediate eating, down at the young heathen end of the table, until they are reminded that we are going to bless the food, that we always bless the food, that we have been blessing the food since before they were born, and have done so every day of their short lives, and that if they don't start remembering this soon their lives will not get any longer.

We all hold hands. There is silence. Baby Isaiah has been watching, these past weeks, and now he knows, when we do this, to reach out his mush-covered hand and place it on top of Mama and Daddy's hands. He does this, and smiles at me, and then I pray: Thank you God for this food, though really I am thanking him for all of it, for the good and the bad and especially for them, without whom all my meals would be lonely and quiet and pointless.

Posted by Woodlief on June 09, 2008 at 10:08 AM


How can one be laughing so hard my sides hurt and crying all at the same time? This was wonderful...

Posted by: Jennifer at June 9, 2008 10:50 AM

Hehehehehehe . . . Nice to know I am not alone in the dinner travails. In Alaska, it was always two fingers of what ever single malt scotch was on sale. Now, in Tennessee, I have discovered the pleasures of Tennessee sour mash for which I thank God (although one and sundry family members refer to it as poison) along with thanksgiving for the food and for the crowd at the table, without which as you say so eloquently, "I am thanking him for all of it, for the good and the bad and especially for them, without whom all my meals would be lonely and quiet and pointless."

It does get better, and worse. Baby mash morphs into a nine year old who refuses to sit straight and thus drops food all over the floor and an eighteen year old who solemnly asserts he will never touch broccoli in college. Wife and Mother takes it all in, patiently, but I know that later it will all come out. But as GK Chesterton observed, ""Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honour should decline." He also noted, quite accurately, "The whole pleasure of marriage is that it is a perpetual crisis."


Posted by: JAM at June 9, 2008 10:53 AM

Two, fingers that is.

Posted by: Scott at June 9, 2008 11:08 AM

Absolutely nothing better than family mealtime at my house either!

Posted by: angela at June 9, 2008 3:41 PM

As always your stories make me smile. You are a good Dad and husband for sure.

Posted by: Sarah at June 9, 2008 7:41 PM

I wish we could combine the craziness of our families for a mealtime with all seven of them!! We miss you guys, though I hear there might be a trip to Tony's pizza in the making, at least for you men (I'll be at home, making sure hands get washed and shoving mush into the baby's mouth, I suppose). No bitterness.

Posted by: Meredith at June 9, 2008 8:28 PM

One of the great joys of parenting is when the baby learns to reach out on his own to grab your hand. How can such a little hand hold so much power? I think our heavenly Father feels the same joy when we reach out our hand in love to "Abba, Father".

It sounds like you will need to arrange some type of handwashing station downstairs. Otherwise the boys will start making stuff up to drag out the start of the meal, particularly as they notice mom getting upset and/or it's food they don't like.

Posted by: Marc V at June 10, 2008 2:02 PM

I am printing this out and putting this on my husband's plate at dinner tonight. It is good to know we are not alone in the first part and it will be good to join better company in the second. Thank you.

Posted by: Julie Ponzi at June 10, 2008 8:22 PM

Happy Father's Day, Tony. May you give thanks every day of your life for the awesomeness that nets you a whole day on the calendar every year. :)

Posted by: MMM at June 15, 2008 10:21 AM

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