The advent of the holiday season evokes warm memories of Christmases past. Each year our extended family got together for a Yuletide reunion. Relatives gathered at the designated home for the “Three Fs” of food, fellowship, and football. The women worked in the kitchen, the men watched T.V. in the den, and the children ran wild around the house.
My Aunts Lois, Bera, or Hazel normally hosted the event. Since both of my parents were only children, the ladies in question were not technically my aunts. I THINK they might have been my great-aunts . . . or first cousins on my mother’s side . . . once removed . . . maybe! I never have understood all of that genealogy stuff. In the South, however, it is perfectly permissible to call any older relative “uncle” or “aunt.”
When dinner time arrived, we held hands around the dining room for the blessing. Before his death, Uncle Charlie served as the spiritual patriarch of the family. He did not believe in perfunctory prayers. I have preached sermons far shorter than many of his blessings. When Uncle Charlie addressed the Lord God Almighty, even the children intuitively understood that we were eavesdropping on a lifelong conversation. I always echoed the final “Amen” with relief.
Then a feast fit for the far side of the Pearly Gates commenced. The dining room table groaned with a surplus of bounty. We circled the table, filling our plates with ham, turkey, roast, vegetables, casseroles, salads, and quivering gelatin concoctions topped with marshmallows or whipped cream.
My Aunt Lois always made her “special” oyster dressing. I am a lifelong connoisseur of cornbread dressing. However, I am convinced that this particular dish was listed as an abomination before the Lord somewhere in the Old Testament book of Leviticus. However, she atoned for her sins with sugary rich desserts and special-sized portions for little boys who begged. May her memory be forever blessed.
In Hollywood productions, entire clans gather around expansive tables in lavish banquet rooms. However, our modest homes required more ingenious solutions for crowd control. The men used trays in front of the T.V. set while the women clustered around the tables. The youngsters were banished to the dreaded children’s table.
At the time, the three youngest children in the family included my sister, Margaret, our cousin, Peggy, and me. We always found ourselves assigned to the Siberia of card tables on the outer ring of the family circle. The three of us grumbled amongst ourselves about our social alienation, swearing that our children would never be subjected to such humiliation.
In retrospect, I cannot say why our place at the card table irked us so. We ate the same food everyone else enjoyed. The adults’ conversation certainly did not interest us. We always reached the dessert table first. Yet something about sitting in folding chairs at a cardboard table insinuated a lesser status.
The years and decades have swiftly passed. Since my “aunts” and “uncles” passed away, the extended family only gathers for weddings and funerals. I still recall my companions at the children’s table as giggling girls whom I adored. However, Margaret died of cancer in 1992, and Peggy lives in England with her British husband.
Today our family holiday gatherings number less than a dozen guests. At dinnertime, the entire family gathers around the dining room table. There is plenty of room for everyone, and my children have never suffered the indignity of age discrimination. I would trade these days for nothing.
However, there are moments when I long to sit at that rickety card table once again. The holidays remind us of Christmases past. We cherish past recollections and occasionally yearn for “the good old days.” Yet we are also making memories in the present. Yesterday’s nostalgia should not blind us to today’s blessings.
We also look forward with hope to the future. The moments of laughter and love we spend with family and friends are but a foretaste of glory divine. A day will come when the circle will remain unbroken. The Bible promises that God’s people will gather at a great feast, reunited with those we love. Then we will ALL sit at the children’s table as sons and daughters of our heavenly Father.
And if the heavenly host seats me at a cardboard table with folding chairs, I won’t mind at all.