By: Carolyn Tomlin
For Sam and Elizabeth Tinsley of West Tennessee the weekends mean two things. On Sunday, they’re always in church and on Saturday, Elizabeth has spent the day cooking. That’s because they know the value of having their children and grandchildren for Sunday dinner.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, we would have about 12 for lunch,” says Elizabeth. “Sitting around the table brings us closer as a family. Plus, I hope this tradition will continue with our clan in the years ahead.”
An old French proverb states: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Although it may not apply to everything in life, it’s important for families to remain close and nurture this feeling that kin provides.
A recent study by Home Instead Senior Care Network conducted research that states 92 percent feel eating with multigenerational family members is a good way to reconnect.
We’re not surprised! This is something many families have known for years. If you grew up a few decades ago, Sunday was the time for the relatives to visit. Could we bring back this custom of the Sunday dinner—perhaps not every Sunday, but at least once a quarter—or maybe every six weeks?
The list of strengths gained from families being together and sharing a meal are endless. Here are seven ways your clan can nurture strong relationships.
Record family stories through oral history and videos. Perhaps a teen could record the tales and copy to a CD for everyone. Focus on the older members of your clan. Choosing one branch of the family, reflect on their life and stories each time you get together.
Encourage conversation around the table. We may see our children and grandchildren often, but how much time do you actually spend in conversation? If your family is like many, the Smartphone’s are nearby and someone is either emailing or texting during a meal. Rule No. 1. Turn the phone off, or leave it in another room during the meal. Focus on being together.
Involve each household in meal preparation and cleanup. Think “disposable” items instead of bringing out the China and crystal. No one wants kitchen duty after the meal. Assign the meat, vegetable, salad, bread and dessert to each home. Simplify when preparing for a large crowd.
Be creative with new recipes. Try something old…something new. My Aunt Jessie brought sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows every meal—regardless of the season. Using recipes from the past provides an opportunity to reflect on memories.
Include family members in nursing homes and assisted living centers. If possible, bring them to your home or take the meal to a room at their center. Many facilities have space for people to meet and share food.
If you’ve inherited ancestor’s dishes, use these for meals. Relate family stories to younger members about the bowls or serving pieces. Many years ago, my paternal grandmother saved her egg money and bought a cut-glass crystal bowl. Extravagant beyond her means, the bowl became a symbol of her dreams. Now in my possession, I treasure this bowl—not for its worth— for what this piece meant to a strong God-fearing woman.
Set up a movie or activity for the group if conversation isn’t flowing. Or, use one of the classics movies popular years ago. Always have a Plan B. What about a game of Charades or Trivia? Volunteers only. Before guests arrive, have everything in place.
Take pride in being a descendant and learn more about your ancestors through Sunday dinners. Bridge the gap between the youth of your family and the older generation. Work together to build a strong multi-generational clan.
Carolyn Tomlin, Jackson, TN writes for numerous magazines and newspapers.