This is how the dinner table works in our house. The food is ready, and Wife is announcing this in her best I-cooked-for-you-people-while-you-all-conspired-to-drive-me-crazy voice. Baby Isaiah is squawking because he came equipped with a special squawk alarm that goes off the moment anyone puts him down. His older brothers are doing a Three Stooges routine around the door, Isaac stopping because he realizes his socks are wet from playing in the creek, Eli bumping into Isaac as he bends to remove the wet socks, sending him sprawling, and Caleb bumping into the door because Eli, in an effort to be our one obedient son, has closed it behind him lest the cat/dog/mosquitoes/stifling heat/snakes get in. Their father, meanwhile, is asking how many fingers of whisky he can pour without setting a bad example for the children.
This is followed by tromping up and down the stairs, as each boy either washes his hands but forgets to pee, or vice versa. Wife is warning them the food will get cold, and ignoring my question about the whisky. I am holding baby in one hand, and a whisky bottle in the other. Isaiah is still squawking, despite being in my arms, both because I won’t let him have the whisky bottle, and because he has realized, once again, that while I am generally a big Daddy-barrel of fun, I am not currently equipped with lactating breasts, and this being dinner time and me being stingy with the whisky, he’d just as soon have his mama.
Eventually we make our way to the table with clean hands, and get water cups distributed and napkins placed and the appropriate level of utensil technology before the appropriate little people. Sometimes we even do this without sending Wife into tears. I strap the baby into his seat and stuff into his mouth a spoonful of whatever mush is on his menu. We all sit. There is talking and immediate eating, down at the young heathen end of the table, until they are reminded that we are going to bless the food, that we always bless the food, that we have been blessing the food since before they were born, and have done so every day of their short lives, and that if they don’t start remembering this soon their lives will not get any longer.
We all hold hands. There is silence. Baby Isaiah has been watching, these past weeks, and now he knows, when we do this, to reach out his mush-covered hand and place it on top of Mama and Daddy’s hands. He does this, and smiles at me, and then I pray: Thank you God for this food, though really I am thanking him for all of it, for the good and the bad and especially for them, without whom all my meals would be lonely and quiet and pointless.