Sunday, October 28, 2007

The cracked clay pot

On Tuesday night, my mom called and asked if my sister and I would like to come to their house for dinner. My sister and I live together in a little rent house, not too far from my parents. We try not to over-indulge in the blessings of “mom’s cooking” (or free meals, for that matter), but when the invitation is straight from mom herself, who can refuse? Especially when pot roast, baked potatoes, and cream corn are involved. So, we went over there just as the food was almost ready. We all chatted in the kitchen, my sister and I helping to set the table. When the food was ready, we gathered around the island to fix our plates, particularly the baked potato. Then one by one, we made our way to the table to sit. Most of the conversation revolved around our days. My sister’s stories from work, my stories from class or papers I’d graded. Bits of news and gossip we had heard throughout the day. As we finished eating, we took our plates to the sink, one by one, each returning to the table. The conversation continuing. Eventually, my mom started to put the food up, and my dad began to wash the dishes. My sister and I started cleaning the table and counters. Within minutes the kitchen was clean again, and my sister and I went home.

Seems like a relatively normal dinner setting. And for our family, it is perfectly normal and routine. However, (and mostly for the sake of this assignment), I started to think and reflect on the situation in a different way. I never noticed how we share responsibilities so much. There’s no “formality.” Even in terms of “seating,” we don’t have assigned seats. I have sat in every seat at our dining room table. I think most families can’t say that. No one has a particular seat they always sit in. We all just sort of sit down wherever and by whomever. Also, usually my mom does the cooking, but we all help in some way. In terms of cleaning, sometimes I do the dishes, sometimes my dad does them. My sister and my mom usually put the food away. But what’s most peculiar about it all is that there’s no “delegating” or “commanding.” We just did it all, in the most natural sort of way.

I know that my family is extremely close. We are unified together, and probably stronger than most families because of it. Usually when someone says their family is “close,” it implies an unhealthy, over-involvement on the parents’ part (usually the mom’s). But that’s not the implication for our family. My parents have always given us the room to fail. I think that’s the best way to say it. The problem with “close” families, usually, is that the parents’ won’t let their children fail—or make decisions for that matter. My parents taught us important life-principles…and then stepped back. My siblings and I have always been open in our communication with them, but not from their being pushy about it. I think it’s because we have the freedom to be honest with them about anything we’ve done (good or bad) and we’re able to make our own decisions, that their opinions and respect become more important. I know that I’ve been truly blessed to have a good family. Most people can’t say that. Certainly we’re not perfect. We each have our own values and annoyances. But I feel like we’ve aged well together. If I were to describe our family as a clay pot, we’re not perfectly formed and painted. We would more likely have cracks and holes. In some places, the paint would be faded or stripped altogether. But we’re beautiful in our own way because of the things we’ve been through and overcome. I believe we reflect the reality of life, which is hardly ever picture perfect.
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