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Missing My Family Dinners

Our world is much different than it was just a few months ago. One of the things I miss dearly is my monthly family dinner. Under normal circumstances, a group of us from my mom’s side of the family gather at a local restaurant or someone’s home for dinner. Our numbers range from 8 to 30 people and consist of my mom, aunt, uncle, first cousins, and tons of distant cousins.

Most of those who attend are considered high risk for the pandemic, so our monthly dinner has been cancelled until after things return to normal. We want everyone to stay home and stay safe.

I really miss my family. Even though I grew up with my aunt, uncle, and first cousins as a large part of my life, Mom’s cousins and their spouses are people I didn’t really know as a kid. Our families only intermingled every few years when distant relatives from out of state visited. It was my loss because they’re a delightful bunch.

The idea for the family dinner was born at a funeral. I believe it was Aunt Bonnie’s funeral, but it could have been that of someone else. A few of us got to talking at the cemetery about how it was such a shame that we only saw each other while mourning our dearly departed. Someone, I believe it was my cousin Bill, suggested getting together for dinner once a month. It was a brilliant idea that was immediately embraced.

Spending just two hours together a month has brought us much closer as a family. Most of us even like each other as people, not just products of the same bloodline.

I love listening to my older family members tell their stories. I think that most people could learn a lot from sitting down at a dinner table with multiple generations and listening to them. I’ve gotten to know my extended family members pretty well over the past few years, and I have a deep respect for each of them.

Through our conversations I learn about my family history. I often have “aha moments” when I realize why we do things the way we do. My grandparents and their siblings were kids or young adults during The Great Depression. My older cousins, aunts, and uncles were born in the 1940s while the strain of that era was still fresh. My mom is younger, but she was still brought up with that conservative mentality.

They were all taught to never waste anything. Always try to fix something that was broken first. If that doesn’t work, keep it around for spare parts. Always obtain food when it’s plentiful, in season, or on sale. Always preserve what nature provides. Never let fruit rot on the tree or vegetables shrivel on the vine.

Those values were instilled in my mom who, in turn, instilled them in me. If I don’t have enough food in the house to last my family at least a year, I tend to panic. When I can see shelves in my freezer, it’s time to go shopping, foraging, hunting, or fishing. These values kept my family alive when times were tough.

Given the current state of of the world, I’m awfully glad I was raised to put things up for hard times. I’ve done very little grocery shopping during our current health crisis. While my garden hasn’t produced enough to can or freeze yet, it has given me enough to eat.

I’m ready for COVID-19 to be finished so my family feels safe enough to once again come together around the dinner table. I’m sure we’ll all have plenty of stories to tell, but the most important thing is being together again.

Maybe I can even talk my dad’s side of the family into doing something similar once our country resumes normality. Thank you for reading Ozarks Maven! If you’ve enjoyed my little seeds of wisdom and joy, please subscribe to Ozarks Maven, Like Ozarks Maven on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter @OzarksMaven.

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