Monday, August 6, 2012

Dinner Time, Story Time

Saturday evening we hosted a dinner party with three couples invited, something we hadn't done for quite some time. I spent Friday and Saturday grocery shopping, cleaning and cooking. This time, it wore me out much faster than in the days when we had dinner parties on a regular basis.

Even so, I was ready when the doorbell started ringing announcing our guests. After drinks and appetizers, I filled the plates with baked salmon, rice pilaf, a citrus chiffon salad with a strawberry garnish and asparagus with almonds. Once they  were placed on the table, I called our guests to come and eat.

Ken poured the wine while I passed the bread I'd baked earlier in the day and soon we were eating, laughing, and telling stories. As the plates grew emptier, the stories increased. Each couple related times in the past when they'd lived or traveled overseas. There were stories about the years we were all raising children. We heard stories about our individual heritages, how our ancestral grandparents had come to this country, how we've worked at learning their family stories.

Over Sour Cream Lemon Pie and coffee, military years stories were related. I noticed that the stories were about the pasts of 8 different people, and yet there were similar threads running through all of them. The older I get, the clearer it becomes that people are more alike than they are different in so many respects.

After our guests left, I cleaned up the kitchen and thought about all the shared memories. How many, I wondered, will ever sit down and write about the things they so easily spoke about? My guess is that not very many will do so. The children and grandchildren of the people who gathered around our table would find the stories interesting, maybe fascinating in some cases, as well as being of importance when tracing a family history.

One woman told us about an adult daughter who rather disdainfully questioned why her mother kept a particular item when moving to a new town. Her mother told her the the family history of the piece and immediately the daughter asked if she could have it. When we learn the story of an item, we see it in a new perspective.

What is it about people eating together that triggers these stories? What other places have you been where memory stories are told with gusto? The next time you tell a story, give strong consideration to writing it and starting a memory book for future generations of your family to read.

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