As I mentioned in my last post (if you bothered to read the whole thing — I know it was long), we have a very large family gathering every year on Christmas Eve.  My extended family is fairly large (for non-Mormons), and due to a significant age difference between my mom and her two sisters, the generations are kind of staggered.  Add in my cousins’ spouses and then children over the years, and now those children’s significant others, and we’re talking almost 20 people.  There are never enough seats at the main table.

I distinctly remember being pretty small and getting to eat at the coffe table in my grandmother’s parlor with my little sister and two or three of our older cousins.  I was thrilled at the specialness of the occasion, because it meant 1) eating in the parlor, which was usually off limits, and 2) no adult supervision during dinner, which was a big deal for me at the time.  But I am sure those cousins were in their mid- to late-teens, and were probably sick and tired of being stuck at the kids table.  I think I even remember grumblings along those lines as we ate dinner.

Right now, the youngest of my cousins’ children are in high school, and there is even going to be a cousin’s brand-new grandchild at the table this year, but I am sure that, depite the fact that no one is a little kid anymore, there will have to be a kids table.  Even with my sister and I unable to make it home for Christmas this year.  I’m sure there are people in your family, too who have complained about being “stuck” at the kids’ table year after year, well past the point when they were truly kids.

Thinking about my younger cousins’ plight, I remembered the first year that my sister and I both made it to the grown-up table.  We were both in high school, I think I was a junior and she was a freshman.  We were so shocked to fit everyone at a single table, my sister blurted out the question, “Who died?” without thinking first.

The answer was, my aunt J.  She had passed away the previous year from a brain tumor, on December 23rd, and she was on everyone’s minds that year.  My sister immediately felt awful for what she had said.  But my mom smoothed things over, pointing out that our cousin S was in Maine now with his wife and kids, and L and her husband were in Kansas, and our grandmother had also passed away a few years before (and my other aunt might not have been speaking to the rest of the family that year).  For all those reasons, it was a small Christmas, small enough that we all fit at the one table. 

So this year, thinking about how my sister and I made it to the adult table has really changed how I think about the whole idea of a kids table. Now I hope there’s a kids table every year.  It’s not a punishment to sit there, it’s a privilege.  Because it means that you are surrounded by family — even if they are all eating at the grownup table in the other room.

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