Last night wasn’t our regular family dinner night, so we didn’t have candles burning in all the windows and banners hanging from the eaves. S. and K. hadn’t been in the kitchen since 5:00, clanging pots and pans, “tasting” the wine, giggling, cursing, and periodically sending J. and I on vital last-minute errands. Loreena McKennit wasn’t on the stereo, nor was incense competing with the aromas wafting out of the kitchen. It wasn’t T. and F.’s turn to serve, so they didn’t arrive early and stand bantering near the door, waiting to give our guests a royal welcome, take their coats and shoes, and offer them a drink. Neither did I greet the arriving guests with an embrace and a kiss on the cheek. The sitting room wasn’t filled with all manner of couches, cushions, recliners, and armchairs to rest in after a long day of work; F. wasn’t offering massages to soothe tensed muscles; the basement ballroom did not have strong beats playing for those who preferred a more active form of relaxation. The playroom was not stocked with toys and games for our younger guests.
When the dinner gong sounded we did not gather around the beautifully laid-out banquet table and join hands as K. helped two of the little ones to light the candles. I did not intone the usual exhortation to leave all conflict outside our circle as we join in peaceful communion. We did not observe the momentary solemnety as we broke bread and bid each other to never hunger, or as we lifted our wine and bid each other to never thirst. We did not then begin the toasts, those toasts that continue on all through the meal and after – toasting our individual triumphs, toasting those who could not make it, toasting the departed, toasting to good news, toasting to good health and many more meetings.
After the meal, after the table was cleared, after pulling chairs back and washing hands and as coffee brewed, we did not take turns sharing the experiences of the week. We did not celebrate each other’s joys and commiserate in each other’s sorrows. We did not heap attention, concern, and hugs on each of our number in turn. We did not lighten our hearts by confessing those things held bottled up in our hearts. We did not then gather here and there in groups to discuss for hours, or to play games, or to cuddle together and watch a movie. And when it came time for our guests, those who weren’t staying over, to leave, we did not send them away with yet more hugs and a blessing.
None of these things happened. But someday, I like to think, they will.