All great change begins at the dinner table
~ Ronald Reagan
Every day my mother lovingly and carefully prepared three healthful and substantial meals for my father, my younger brother and me. Reading a post from September 21, 2010 on “Our Dinner Table," Delight in Losing Arguments, bounced me way back in time—decades back, in fact—to my family’s dinner table and something that usually occurred at each evening meal.
This nightly “event” was my father’s seemingly unquenchable need to bring up some subject he knew would elicit groans and comments from my brother and me. “Daaaaad, that can’t be true.” “Who said?” “Where’d you read it?”
My recollection is that these “conversations” began when I was 11 or 12 years old and became a regular ritual at the dinner table. With no preamble, Dad would make some pronouncement to my younger brother and me which sounded blatantly outrageous.
Out-of-the-blue comments such as “…there’s a new sewing machine that darns socks,” or “…when you’re washing windows, use old newspapers to dry and polish them,” and “always use cold water to wash milk out of a glass” or he might come out with, define and spell, some silly sounding word we had never heard of. When his declaration ended, he would look down and resume eating his dinner.
Of course everyone knows socks have to be mended with something inside of them (Mom used an old light bulb), so how could a machine do that? Naturally, when he said to use old newspapers to polish the windows, we both felt our father just wanted to save money and recycle, (a term not even used in those days, but we understood “reuse”). We certainly knew he was simply being a hot-water-electricity-saving-cheapskate when he instructed us to use cold water to wash out a milk glass.
In every instance, my brother and I felt as though he was daring us to prove him wrong. We could not help ourselves—we countered him with disbelieving comments and flew to the nearby Collier’s encyclopedias or the dictionary in an attempt to invalidate what our father had said.
Even though loud arguments often ensued, this uproar and dissension over the spelling of words, understanding of philosophies, and interpretation of concepts or feasibility of inventions, never deteriorated into personal insults.
Mom stayed on the sidelines as the contentiousness went on and we settled the question or, simply tired of arguing. Only then did we continue our dinner.