I am the primary cook in our home. We've been married just about eleven years, and most of those years we have had children living in our home, so I've cooked a lot of meals and a lot of servings in this time. Tonight as we gathered to eat dinner together there were just eight of us, although our youngest son has strep throat and didn't join us at the table because he wasn't feeling well. Our youngest daughter is at a friend's for the day, so it was only seven of us at the table.
It's been more than three years now that it hasn't been all twelve of us together at meal time, and I miss those days. During the years when we were all home together (before Kyle graduated high school and Mike and John began their individual and joint stints into delinquency), evening meals were quite an experience. Our youngest kids were still young enough that food would often be flung hither and yon (or hidden under the table). Our oldest kids often bickered (my how Kyle and Mike, brothers by birth could antagonize one another). It was really quite a production, apart from even the purchase of groceries and the food preparation, service and clean-up.
But I remember those days with fondness because in the midst of all the stress and conflict we were together. We knew on a daily basis what was happening in the lives of our kids, and even when meals were emotionally disastrous, we had been together. While I do not miss the extra work (physically and emotionally) all that entailed, I do really miss having us all together. It is unlikely that we will all be together again, except for special occasions (holidays), and maybe not even then much any more.
I'm finally learning how to purchase fewer groceries, prepare less portions and better anticipate what food items will be more readily eaten than others. We are adjusting (after eleven months) to a home that has a considerably smaller kitchen and dining area than our previous parsonage did. I have adjusted -- very nicely, thank you -- to the decrease in bickering, the hidden and flung food.
But what I haven't adjusted to is the change of not seeing each of our children nearly every night. It feels somewhat lonely and incomplete to me. I'm not sure our remaining children notice it much anymore, but we keep the memory of our other family members alive by remembering them by name in our pre-dinner grace each time we gather to eat. So, while they are not with us, they are "present," if that makes any sense.
I thoroughly enjoy cooking for our whole family, and those days of cooking for twelve of us evoke pleasant memories. Cooking for only seven people hardly seems worth it!