It is bright and sunny today. Clear blue sky. A gentle breeze stirs the branches of the pine tree outside my office window. Ellie still sleeps on her mat at the end of my bed and Marley, the Great Cat, has just come in from a night of carousing the neighbourhood.
I am grateful. I am driving to Saskatoon today and like good weather on the road.
Last night, my sister, her husband, my youngest daughter and I took my mother out for dinner for her 90th birthday. We chose a restaurant that is my mother’s favourite and while the price was reasonable, the food fair — plentiful, just not great — it was the atmosphere that made the event not too great.
The restaurant was noisy, chaotic, packed. And while it was uncomfortable — it didn’t really matter. We were celebrating the birthday of this woman who has knit together the fabric of our family and kept us coming back to the table, no matter how far we roamed.
Because of my mother and father, one of my favourite things to do is to entertain. I love having people crowded around my dining room table. And, as anyone whose ever come to my home for dinner, you’re bound to find someone who was just invited that day because I’d run into them at the market, or on the street and invited them on the spot. it’s something my parents were famous for — there was always room for ‘just one more’ at the dinner table, no matter how late in the day one of we four children invited a friend over.
Though I do think I’m getting old. I did find the noise and chaos in the restaurant a tad disturbing last night. Except, even my 24 year old daughter found it stressful. Both my girls worked as servers while going through school, but working there would never have happened. “I couldn’t do it,” Liseanne said as we left. “I’d have gone crazy and probably yelled at someone to put their phone away. They’re at the dinner table.”
My daughters don’t allow phones at the dinner table. They are in fact a bit militant about it — which probably accounts for why she wanted to get up and tell the woman at the next table to get off her phone last night. Her two year old was throwing food, the father was insisting the son SIT DOWN NOW in a very loud voice and the mother was texting.
In my daughters circle, even their friends know, when they’re out together sharing a meal, do not text. Do not check your email. Do not put your phone onto the table at any time. Their reasoning… “We’re sharing time together. We can’t be present in eachother’s company if someone’s talking to someone, or texting someone else who isn’t present while we’re all sitting together in the here and now.”
We took my mother to dinner last night for her 90th birthday. It was wonderful to share the evening with my family, to connect over a dinner table into the circle of love which binds us all together.
In spite of the chaos, despite the noise and confusion of the room, there is something special in celebrating the birth day of the woman who gave birth to our family.
Ninety years ago, my mother was born in Pondicherry, India. The third in what would become a family of ten children my mother is a peace-maker and a bridge builder. She was twenty-five when she left the land of her birth to travel far across the seas with my father whom she’d married during WW2. Eventually, husband and wife made their way to Canada where all four of her children were born. Back and forth across the Atlantic. Back and forth across this great country she followed my father several times, carrying with her all her hopes and dreams and fears and promises to love her family, to create a family circle that could not be broken.
Our family has grown smaller with the years. My father and brother and his wife have passed away. Many of my aunts and uncles are gone too. And while the losses have been hard on my mother, no matter how far she travelled, how many years separate her from that moment of her birth, she carries with her the exotic mystery of her homeland. She carries with her the kindness and gentleness of her spirit. She carries with her the Love of her family that has knit us together, no matter how far apart we have roamed.
We took my mother out for her birthday dinner last night and in the chaos of the restaurant, no matter how uncomfortable I felt, it didn’t really matter. Because, no matter where we are, there is one thing that is always present, always greater than the environment in which we sit or stand, walk or run. What is present is the thing that ties us all, heart to heart, even when there are those missing from the circle.
We took my mother out for her birthday last night and shared a meal full of LOVE.