Theres a tradition in my family that started when I met my wife. Its nothing fancy or difficult but just something that has happened every Sunday for years. My In-laws and myself along with my wife and her brother would have Sunday dinner togther. Over the years my Brother-in-law would bring his girlfriends to this meal and eventually his wife. Other parts of the family would pop by every now and then but at the root of it all was us.
During the summer months we would progress to a BBQ outside and sit in the sun drinking cold beers enjoying each others company. With time my kids appeared and we would watch them run around the garden. During the winter it was roast potatos and meat huddled in the front room telling stories about how our weeks had been, the good and the bad. It was something too look forward to.
If anyone wanted us they knew where to find us, an open door policy operated, if you wanted to come you could and if there wasnt enough chairs then you ate it on your lap on the settee. I dont know how she did it but she always made sure that there was enough. My mother in law was brilliant at it.
This has carried on now into my new home. It wasnt something I intended to do if Im honest but after cooking everyone Christmas dinner two months ago, which I enjoyed more than I thought I would, I guess its my turn now to carry it on for years to come. Every Sunday since then its been all round mine. I start cooking the meat then its all over to the fields to work up an appetite which allows me to share precious moments with my kids and also allows me to hopefully make memories for them as well.
This weekend the world and his wifes cousin decided to descend on my humble abode. My daughter invited two of her friends, without telling me, my sister arrived with my nephews and their mate as well. They are good kids, polite, pleasant and fun to be around. There was a dynamic change this weekend though, as I sat in my chair at the top of the table I watched them as they tried to be comfortable around each other. The boys awkward and embarrassed, the girls all giggly and nervous as it was clear that there was perhaps the first flutterings of feelings coming through.
I was never a great one with the girls as a kid, I could make friends with them easily no problem at all but I would have needed to be hit in the face with a shovel to pick up on any 'signals' and I guess I missed a few oppoutunitys with it. I did okay as I got older, although Im convinced that had more to do with dutch courage than any sudden change in my social skills.
I watched the looks the girls gave each other, a look only the female of the species would undertsand that 'I like him' that my duaghter is so good at picking up on. I watched as my nephew not quite old enough to understand what was going on (his mother hopes anyway, as my daughter is a few years older as are her mates) but embarrassed all the same. His friend turning red everytime one of them laughed or said something to him and us, the grown ups, well that would exclude my brother in law and I, making it worse by making kissing noises at them.
I didnt always want to go for dinner to my In-laws truth be told. There were numerous times I could have done without it, but sitting there Sunday I realised why they put so much emphasis on it. Your friends will come and go but the one constant you have in life is your family. My family dynamic has changed massively over the years and it will continue to change further as my kids grow up. Friends for dinner will be replaced by partners, the laughter of my youngest, that high pitched giggle they all seem to have, will hopefully be replaced by grandkids.
The one thing that I hope to create though is a sense of belonging. That no matter what your week has been like, no matter who youve argued with within the family, that come Sunday there is a place waiting for you at my table for dinner. The same way my In-laws did for me for all those years.
A little naive perhaps but something I will cling onto dearly until my last breath or Im not able to do the dinners anymore. Family to me means everything, and Im proud of mine.