Last night Husband and I had a rare opportunity to do something exceedingly normal – share supper together. I grew up down South – and because of that I have a firmly held belief that supper should be shared. This is not just a tradition. This is not just a Sunday sort of thing. This is something that should be done many more nights of the week than is currently done.
Just to be clear, sharing implies more than one person is present. Simple concept that is difficult to execute (forget well, but really at all) given our professions and the culture of where we live. And so, Husband and I usually fail to share supper on two important counts:
- We are not able to sit down together most nights of the week.
- And in fact, we’re usually eating hours apart (to say nothing of the guilt-jealousy I feel knowing he’s got cheap takeout while I make real food in our tiny kitchen at home).
Time and place, my friends. Sharing supper means that more than one person should be present at the same time and place. Growing up in my parents’ home, this also meant you were eating the same thing (or you weren’t eating). But let’s not get over-ambitious here.
It should be pointed out that neither of us usually eats alone. He with millions of Manhattanites, me with our dog. But to be clear, neither of these are what I mean by sharing supper. I don’t have to explain his situation. And while I love that Salem sits patiently by my feet many days of the week, her definition of “sharing supper” is also much different than mine.
In Salem’s world, sharing would mean taking food off my plate and putting it right in her dish. This is despite the fact that she has already been fed her supper. As a poster puppy for “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is also mine,” when she’s sitting patiently by my feet, she’s always got something else afoot.
Unfortunately for her, we don’t feed her human food – except that one incident with a meatball and the other with beer, both good stories. And unfortunately for me, not being able to count Salem’s version of sharing means I also cannot count my own (we’d have the time and place down, but she’s neither a person nor eating people food). This just won’t do.
So luckily for all three of us – Salem, Husband and me – last night we made supper a family outing. Our neighborhood has a real name, but locals call it Dog Island City, and with good reason. On any given day, walking outside, in your building or any place of business not involving food, there will be dogs and their people. And on nice days, many of the restaurants also put outdoor café seating for these well-dressed, well-exercised families to nosh on just about any cuisine (God, I love Queens).
On this particular Saturday night, Husband and I sat down at one of these tables, Salem underneath, and waited for our food to arrive. We enjoyed it and the conversation, grateful for the blessing of sharing supper together. It was perfect except one thing, which, being out of practice, we forgot.
Amidst the blessing, we forgot to say grace. My parents would be appalled (Mom & Dad, I know you’re reading this, sorry). And while we should work on that in the future – hopefully with more suppers spent together – we have a perfectly ridiculous reason that makes the whole scene make sense.
So we sit down and eat, right? Then what?
- A mom with a dog, two kids and a friend shows up. Mom, very pregnant, corrals her kids just long enough to sit them down at the table next to us. Friend keeps her dog on a tight leash while Salem playfully bats at her, making the just-sat-down kids giggle and hop up from their chairs. Mom looks exasperated. Their waiter shows up just in time.
- A middle-aged male cyclist comes next, high on life, with his much-younger girlfriend. They get their drinks – a beer for him, a strawberry margarita for her. A wasp joins them. Girlfriend starts screaming and running around. Girlfriend starts crying. Cyclist starts yelling.
- Kids start crying. Mom moves kids away from this hysteria in an attempt to prevent it from spreading (what is this, The Crucible?). Kids keep crying. Wasp keeps buzzing. Sainted waiter returns, begging everyone not to swat the wasp. Girlfriend swats. Could have guessed that …
- Cyclist is now talking to the angered wasp. Asking if it enjoys the margarita. Thanking it for its service in a previous foreign war. Girlfriend keeps repeating “do something!” at the top of her lungs. Cyclist answers only with “you believe in reincarnation, right? Hi Uncle Jimmy!”
- Friend looks over at me, Husband and Salem. We smile, unsure of whether to laugh or be afraid. She leans over and says quietly, “at least your dog is calm.”
Who could say grace in the midst of all this life being lived? Not just because you’d be distracted in the blessing, but because you’d be missing the point of it all. It’s not just the food we’re meant to be grateful for at suppertime. It’s the whole picture. It’s life, however ridiculous or irreverent. And so, sitting down to supper with two dogs, a wasp, and a questionable number of children, we participated fully in that moment. We lived grace rather than saying it.
“Bless us, oh Lord, for these, Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty…”
Ryan Vale McGonigle