Some of my most treasured memories center around family meals, with my father presiding at the head of the table, my mom to his right and my grandfather, who lived with us, enriching our lives with his gentle humor and wisdom, to his left. The four children brought up the "rear," doing our share of squabbling, under-the-table kicking, and spilling drinks, yet being honored with the best gift our parents could ever give us: active listening.
Skillfully, my parents would steer the conversation to each person's activities, asking insightful questions about their day and stimulating discussions. This occasioned much laughter as we tried to outdo each other in making anecdotes of mundane events, soul-searching, when forks in life that required big decisions were reached, and sometimes tears, when emotions knifed their way to our dinner table.
Family meals were not the only time for conversation, but yes, they were a daily event that I took for granted until I had my own family and realized the amount of love and effort it took for my parents to create and sustain that atmosphere in my childhood home. Now it's my turn to keep up the tradition with my husband and our own four children.