Things are changing in my family dynamics right now and it has nothing to do with our upcoming nuptials or the fact that my 2 youngest are ferrying between another residence and mine. It's mostly to do with the fact that my father lives with us now.
Last summer when my sisters and I sat down with our father to discuss living arrangements, I knew going into the conversation that I would be happy to live with him again. The last time we were under the same roof I was 13 years old and did my own ferrying between residences, but I was mostly with my mother. There are a few things that concerned me about him living here: we have a lot of stairs in this 2-story house, but he gets around just fine if not a tad bit slower than usual.
I recently shared this with a student who took it home to insist they eat at the dinner table.
Another concern of mine was whether we'd be able to spend time with him and get him involved in a new community in which he wasn't used to living. My father is a part of the Great Migration of Southern Blacks who went North and he's living in Chicago for more than 40 years of his life. He also spent time in New Jersey before marrying my mother.
I needn't have been concerned about either of those things. Dad is getting plenty of exercise at the YMCA where he swims to stay moving while I take a yoga class or do circuit training. He's also taken to exploring his new surroundings and takes off for a local senior center or other places he likes to visit. We're all good on this front.
What I hadn't expected to change was family dinner.
Sure, we have some hard and fast rules about eating together at the table. But, most nights it's just me and dad before The Cuban gets home. Sometimes, the kids drop by (with, I might add, impeccable dinner timing) and we add a few more plates or they reach into the fridge for something else when we sit down to eat a meal.
Don't let this grumpy looking picture of The Cuban fool you. He's happily making chicken noodle soup.
I also hadn't expected to change our music listening tastes when dad moved in with us. Normally, we played more modern music but we've taken to LOVING what dad is sharing with us about music he likes. In the past 6 months, I've gotten to intimately know and enjoy the music of John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderly and Ella Fitzgerald and something called "Gypsy Jazz".
The thing that's changing right now is that Dad does most of the cooking now. As a New Orleans native, he does a fine job of that. (Hooray for shrimp etoufee and andouille sausage!) It could have been easy for us to move him in here and not change anything, but we're embracing the changes to make room for not just his presence, but his wisdom and his stories and his connections to his past whether that comes from listening to "Pennies From Heaven" or when we watch sports together. There are proven benefits of family dinners and this is our own magic we make.
But not the kind of magic that would come from a bubbling caldron of mystery spices. Our magic is simply from learning about each other in new ways when we sit down at the table together.
That's magic enough for our new family dinners.
The Family Dinner Project hopes to inspire families to enjoy food, fun, and conversation together. We're certainly inspired by our new family dinners. You can learn more about The Family Dinner Project on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #familydinnerforward.
As always, the stories, words, and opinions presented here are my own.