Readying For The Season
One of the things I love about those big fancy home magazines is the large glossy photos of their homes. Don't you just see your kitchen in one of them? Wouldn't you love to have the covered chairs with matching ribbons, clean linen table cloth with matching napkins and matching silverware, fancy goblets and candles glowing softly in the romantic setting? (romance isn't only about love...)
And then reality hits. You lower the magazine to see your own table with it's plastic cover (so the wood doesn't get ruined by multiple spills), unmatched chairs, plastic plates and glasses, mis-matched flatware and worn tablecloth that has seen two generations and was handed down by mom.
You look at the photo and then back at your table, and then at the children happily running through the house, innocently unaware that they are the object of your thoughts.
Which would you rather have -- happy children who don't have to worry about spoiling the table, or a perfect home? Well, long ago, I finally discovered that the children were more important, but I did manage to hang onto some of my nice things.
While it's important that children know they are more precious than gold -- sometimes they need to experience what it means to take care of fine things. To enjoy them and take care of them.
We have found that children learn to take care of things through practice and example. We are fond of china and crystal in my family when it comes to Thanksgiving. My mother always put out the best, and when there were younger children, they had their own tables, usually without the china and crystal, but still with nicer plates and glasses.
Now that I'm married and go to two different Thanksgiving celebrations (we trade years like everyone else...grin) I find it interesting how different the two families celebrate things. My in-laws use paper plates, plastic ware and paper cups. We have nice table clothes, usually, but paper napkins and such. Clean up is usually pretty easy, and their focus is on family time and games. She doesn't really do a lot of decorating for Thanksgiving, and her Christmas decorations aren't usually out yet.
My family does the whole bit -- linen table clothes, napkins, (usually folded in intricate designs by my sister who loves to do such things) Crystal, real silver and nice serving dishes. It's still served buffet style, as my in-law's do, but we are much more aware of the day, we are all dressed nice, and it seems more special somehow.
It also takes more work. We usually set up things the night before, and my sister takes the nieces and nephews to help set and learn the art of fine dining. (Sometimes reluctantly...) Clean up usually takes a joint effort, but it doesn't take long with everyone washing and drying and helping clean up. We all feel it's worth it. Then we sit and gab, and usually desert is on paper plates...it all depends on the consensus.
My sisters house where we hold dinner, is very large and was built with the idea of entertaining family during the holidays and for family gatherings. She designed her kitchen with that in mind, and it really makes it nice. She usually has her Christmas decorations up as well, which really adds to the mood.
What I'm trying to get at with these two comparisons, is that sometimes decorating and preparation make a meal a special thing. Using fine china and crystal is something that everyone should experience if they can, and I think it lends a feeling of civilization to the event. I'm sure there are lots of families that figure Thanksgiving is all about bowl games and how much you can eat--but I like to think it's more than that, and we try to have our children experience it. I notice that our children act differently when at my sister's home compared to my in-law's. They act more refined, aren't as likely to run crazily through the house, and readily say please and thank you.
While they still say please and thank you at grandma's, it's usually in a teasing way, and they jostle each other in line, laugh more loudly, and generally act more casual. I'm sure there are pro's and con's to both sides, but for now, I'm encouraging the more formal of the two.
Our family feels it's an occasion to share time, memories and the finer things of life. It revolves around the meal, but that is just an excuse. We love to gather together and spend time together. Thanksgiving is the one time that everyone who can, comes for dinner -- even the older nieces and nephews that normally are too busy.
If you don't have family to visit during this time of year, maybe they live too far away for finances, or you don't have anyone living, it leaves it to you to make your holiday a special one. If you have small children, this is doubly hard, since they don't really understand the reason and feelings.
It takes time. It will come, they will grow, and you can establish traditions now that bring joy and stability in the years to come. We may not all have the ultra fancy dining rooms with covered chairs and crystal, but we can have nice things that show pride and caring about how we live and what we love.
That is the art of living at home.
Return to the Neighborhood.