Dinner table serves up memories

According to the weather experts, this year?s Christmas celebration will likely take place without snow. That?s not necessarily a bad thing, especially if one is a livestock or dairy producer. Other than that, what?s not to like about celebrating Christmas with one?s family?

This year?s event will highlight our twin granddaughters? first Christmas experience. At barely 6 months of age, I doubt they will remember any of it. Nonetheless, the rest of us will remember their places and role in our family Christmas.

Seven neatly embroidered, oversized stockings hang by our chimney with great care. Eight, if one counts a stocking for a surviving member of the cat family, but who?s counting?

A close relative beats that number by about 30 stockings, if my memory is correct. Then again, they got a head start on their family by at least 30 years.

How does one hang that many stockings by the chimney without cluttering up the entire living room, let alone hanging them with great care? Perhaps they keep the real things in storage and merely visualize this tradition to save on time and eliminate clutter.

Besides, there?s no room for it, with that many great-grand kids and grandchildren, not to mention their own adult children?s gifts to place under the tree, it?s practically a logistical nightmare to make sure that everyone?s gift is accounted for, let alone keeping track of who?s naughty or nice.

In anticipation of the arrival of our far-flung family members, I recovered an old dining table from storage and reassembled it for use during the Christmas season. Though not elaborate, it has great meaning for me.

Since the early ?50s, this table was the centerpiece of all family meals until Mother died. More than once, during a Thanks?giving or Christmas dinner, Uncle John Ollenberger would lift a turkey drumstick from his plate while Dad was taking a picture or filming the dinner scene with his movie camera.

Never mind which year it was or where the dinner was held, we always seemed to capture that ?Kodak? moment.

My parents were hosts to many visiting dignitaries while dad was a pastor of several rural congregations. Missionaries from India, Africa, Mexico and South America, plus evangelists and others, including the Nickel Family Singers, sat with us at this table while dining on fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and it opened up the world for me and exposed my mind to events happening on the other side of the globe.

On a humorous side note, I realized these important people were ordinary people like you and me, especially when it comes to preferences, their likes and dislikes of certain foods, and even their strange dietary habits.

For instance, I never knew ketchup or chicken gravy tasted good on apple pie or cottage cheese. It still doesn?t, believe me, but one doesn?t question one?s guest about the finer points of culinary etiquette when said guest is encouraged to ?feel at home? after an important church function.

At one Sunday dinner, an evangelist was attempting to put ketchup on his plate. The new bottle of ketchup was not cooperating. In a fit of impatience, his normally restrained demeanor gave in to the moment as he slammed his open fist on the bottom of the bottle. Not only did the ketchup give in, it covered his plate, the table and the shirt sleeve of my future brother-in-law.

Having been witness to these ?finer? points of dining on specialty foods, I suppose that?s why I enjoy an occasional snack of bologna and jelly. I see it as having released my ?inner child? while retaining a hint of decorum on the outside.

Yesterday, while cleaning the table legs and the top, I recalled another series of events that were less memorable and less worthy of the Kodak experience. As the youngest of the three children that could walk, my next oldest sister and I were assigned the weekly task of cleaning dust off the furniture and applying furniture wax to the table.

To this day, I?m not especially fond of that task. Neither are my siblings. I suppose that?s why I inherited that one piece of furniture after Mother passed away.

Even so, I would not trade all of the memories for anything else.

This Christmas, we celebrate Christ?s birth and focus on what that means for us. Jesus Christ is the reason for the celebration with family and friends and the reason why we are alive today. He alone deserves our adoration and affection.

May you all have a very Merry Christmas, and may all your experiences around the dining table be as memorable as ours!

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