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the importance of sitting down

It’s as if bitchy Winter said to herself, Enough fooling around, let’s show these idiots a thing or two. Suddenly, overnight, we’re in the dead of it – nine below, wind chill of minus seventeen. It feels worse because we haven’t gone gradually into the deep freeze. Just whammo. But hey, we’re Canucks, we can take anything she can dish out. Can’t we? At least, until we have to call the army to dig us out.

A wonderful event last night – a Christmas pot-luck here with my home class students. I cooked chicken and ham, and they all showed up with gorgeous goodies. The star, as always, is Pat’s husband’s smoked salmon; he actually buys a salmon and cures and smokes it himself, and then BAKES THE BREAD to go with this unbelievably delectable treat. What, he doesn’t catch the fish himself, what kind of sluggard is he?
The rest was fabulous too, sweet potatoes, fruit and green salads, cheeses, molten chocolate, decadent cake, accompanied by Prosecco; we were all groaning by the end, and yet working too – there were stories to read and critique, and I dug up a Christmas story I read on CBC’s “Fresh Air” in 1997. So we groaned and we worked.
What was different about last night was that before the guests arrived, I dragged my breakfast table over to the dining-room table to make as big a seating area as possible. Before, people took their plates wherever they wanted, so there were little groups here and there. But last night, we were a family, with Jason, our man, at the head. Dad, we called him. The importance not just of communal feasting but of sitting down at table together is something I learned from the Blins in France, this past summer. Even when there were 35 people to feed, in the days before and just after the wedding, the family insisted on setting the table, and we all sat down at once. I resisted, in my efficient North American way – so much easier to pick up a plate, fill it and just go eat somewhere for God’s sake! But no, we all sat. And talked and laughed and drank and ate and argued and made friends, for hours.
Of course, that’s easier to do when you have an extremely long garden under the green oaks and hot sun of Provence, and an army of assistants to get food out of the kitchen and onto the plates. But what mattered most was conversation and community, at table. So from now on, unless there are an enormous number of people who simply cannot be accommodated all at once, we’re sitting down. With real plates and glasses and cutlery, too.
Because we spend our time in class reading personal essays about our deepest thoughts and feelings, all of us at the pot-luck were already close. Still, by the end of last night, we were closer.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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