Every Sunday, mom and dad held a family meeting. This meeting was called to order around our kitchen table following the family luncheon, but before dessert.
The meeting began when dad finished eating (whether we were ready or not). Dad, sitting at the head of our table, was the chairman. Mom sitting on the opposite end, with pen and calendar in hand, was our secretary. We, my sister, two brothers and I, were the peons…I mean dutiful subjects.
Roll call was unnecessary because it was obvious we were all present. So, the first order of business was to review the happenings (aka committee reports) of our previous week. As a family of six, with one family car and a variety of extra curricular activities, the amount of organization required to move the car and its driver (mom) from point A to Z each week was monumental. This meeting was extremely important to all of us because if we didn’t pay attention, we might be forced to walk home, alone, in the dark, for miles, uphill.
The committee reports from the previous week usually centered around miscommunications such as, “Why wasn’t I picked up after basketball practice?” “How come I had to walk home carrying a trombone and sissy got a ride carrying nothing?” and the dreaded, “I walked home but the doors were all locked and I had to sit on the front steps waiting and starving!” Mom did not enjoy the previous week’s grievances because no matter how hard she tried, we really had too many activities for one car and driver.
At this point, Dad would quickly move on to new business, the upcoming week’s schedule. Dad started by going through his week, one day at a time, Monday through Sunday while mom filled up the calendar. Then my eldest brother, seated at my dad’s left, had his turn highlighting all his events for the week. This usually resulted in calendar adjustments and much negotiating about pick-up and drop-off times. Next, in order of seating, was my baby sister. Dad would look to her and say, “What do you have on Monday?” Being all of four, she would look to my mom and whisper, “What do I have on Monday?” Mom would say “You are free on Monday.” My sister would look to my dad and say, “Nothing.” You get the drift, this continued painfully for each day of the week.
This is about the time the family meeting started to become extremely frustrating for me… and being seated at dad’s right, I still had mom and my little brother’s schedule to listen to before it was my turn. Yep, every week I was last and this whole process was aggravating because we were not allowed to interrupt if it wasn’t our turn. So, even though I knew my Monday and Thursday were in direct conflict with someone else’s pick up times, I had to keep my mouth closed and wait.
To curb my growing unrest, I would tune out and become creative. I have never believed you have to eat everything on your plate, so my leftover food became my canvas for artistic expression and tension relief. I was especially proud of my mashed potato sculptures and you should have seen what I could do with peas. While this completely entertained me, Dad was not a fan. In fact, I began to draw his negative attention. “Sit still.” “Stop playing with your food.” “Put your hands in your lap!”
This is the point in the story where it could have become very ugly. But luckily, I was blessed with parents who believed that children should not only be seen, they should be heard. One family meeting dad bellered, “Why can’t you just sit still and wait your turn!” I put my utensils down, turned and said, “Dad, why don’t you change the meeting so we go around the table and talk about everybody’s Monday. Then, we talk about everybody’s Tuesday. That way I don’t have to sit here waiting for my turn when I know that I have a conflict with everything that mom is writing on that calendar.”
Dad looked at mom. Mom looked at dad. They had a way of communicating without talking that was wonderful and also slightly creepy. Mom finally nodded and Dad said, “You know, you would make a good lawyer.”
From that day forward, our family meetings changed. While it was still painful, it was no longer excruciating. And, being wise, wise parents, they made us clear the table before the meeting commenced so I was no longer tempted to use food as art. Kind of miss those days.