All that’s left of last night’s magical family dinner is a heaping bit of ashes in our backyard make-shift fire pit. Reheated leftovers and fresh canteloupe might not sound magical, but a quick meal for mom is. Partner that with fading light, newly-mowed yard and crackling fire; you can almost hear the twinkle in the children’s eyes above their giddy laughter and chatter. To top it all off, we had s’mores. Yes, even on a school night, and I pretended not to notice how many marshmallows the kids were really eating, though I did close up the bag and keep everything right beside me. It was a perfect dinner together.
Right now I’m reading a book called The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle. This “Emergent Christianity” talk has a way of getting people talking for sure. Where I am in the book at the moment, she’s talking about the different points in history that change our perception and understandings of our reality. At this point, she’s talking about women’s rights, on up to the point now where both parents in the family are working. Family dinners together are no longer the sacred time they once were. The family works to pay for the house. Both parents work to have a sense of personal, social and financial freedom. The house is a resting place for both parents and the children who are exhausted from a full day at school and/or day care.
I’m not further than that right now, but if, like my kids do in their reading classes, I were to make a prediction, I would say that she’s going to say our next shift has to be from working to the point of exhaustion to working at that which brings us energy, fills us up. If we work solely to pay the bills, it seems we do sell ourselves out. We’re draining that which invigorates us, and not only from ourselves but from our families as well. Our children sense it. We sensed it from our parents, right? Precious few of us, and maybe there are actually more than I realize, got to witness our elders doing what they loved. The work ethic from the Depression to the Consumerism of the 80’s led to the workaholics we know only too well. But now there’s an employment crisis, partnered with this seeking, this longing. People wonder what they’re “supposed” to be doing. Yes, pay the bills, but what’s my “purpose”?
Michele Odent, a renowned OB-GYN, was quoted in The Business of Being Born as saying that, like a traveler who realizes he/she is lost, you have to go back to where you were on the path before you took a wrong turn. He was talking about midwifery care being the right path, and the alienation of them being the wrong turn. The analogy works for us, though, too. Families striving to accumulate material wealth doesn’t cut it anymore. Yes, both parents or both partners need to work at something. Both need to feel appreciation, accomplishment, success and a sense of service to others, but it doesn’t always have to be outside the home. It doesn’t have to be white collar. It would seem that we are on the brink of realizing that the place of judgement isn’t ours. We have to work to help each other. We need to realize that we all have gifts and help each other live into those gifts as fully as possible. How do we do that? I haven’t the foggiest, but I’m sure my children will be part of a generation that learns to live that way. I do hope so.
I’m curious to see what Tickle says about our current era, where she sees us going and how. I know it seems like my husband and I have a rather traditional relationship; it works for us for him to work and me do what I consider my work from home or through church. But now he’s out of the corporate realm. We share home tasks. We’re showing our kids what a partnership is like. We also revel in the blessing of extended family. Hopefully we’ve been able to keep the right things on our path as we’re moving forward and find that which keeps us invigorated.
The only thing that would have made last night even more perfect would have been if dearest and I had had enough energy after getting the kids to bed to go back out by the fire and watch the coals burn down, just the two of us on the quilt, wrapped up together in my shawl. Maybe next time.