Monday nights have gotten to be the hardest nights of the week. Typically, my three oldest girls are out working and my husband is taking night classes for welding certification. That leaves just seven of us home for dinner. It’s sad. We sit at the small table. We don’t know what to say. We’re lonely, because so many of us are missing. We’re a little pathetic like that.
One Monday afternoon, I was taking apart some chickens. I was going to simmer the leg quarters for our meal that night, save the breasts till I had enough for a nicer meal for the whole family, and simmer the carcasses for soup. I finished up, and I was looking at the small pile of breasts and the small number of family members, and I got to thinking, “I’ve been doing this all wrong! We could have been living it up on Mondays!” So I breaded those chicken breasts, fried them up, and enjoyed one of our favorite meals with the six remaining children gathered around our small table. We were happy. Small Family Monday had finally come into its own.
The following Monday was an anomaly, in that only one of the girls was working and David was out of school. I lamented to David, “Just when I get Small Family Monday figured out, we’re a big family again.”
“You know what I like about you,” he said, “is that you can turn the most ordinary things into a cause for celebration.”
It’s true. I’ll celebrate just about anything. Since Meg started working in the evenings, I’ve been quietly celebrating Everybody’s Home Night. It happens once a week most of the time, but sometimes, we might go longer till all the chairs are filled. When it happens, though, I put on my Sunday best in the kitchen, fancying up the meal and preparing a cake or pie for dessert. It’s a happy occasion!
But, as with Small Family Monday, I’m not usually celebrating a positive, but doing my best to minimize a negative.
The children will tell you, somewhat sheepishly, that they didn’t really miss their dad when he was deployed. They remember breakfast – and sometimes ice cream* – for dinner, fun outings, and slumber parties. My thought was that I didn’t want them to suffer, and so I made it as joyful an occasion as I could. The day we dropped him off, we seldom went home afterwards. Quite frankly, I couldn’t take returning just yet to the house he wouldn’t be coming back to. So we’d say goodbye, and then go out to have a wonderful time. When we got home, we’d take the leaf out of the table to close the hole and eat one of those unusual deployment dinners, finishing up the day with a double-feature slumber party. They feel badly now about not missing him, but I tell them not to; that was my goal, and I’m pleased to know I was successful.
When Penelope’s beloved cat died a couple of months ago, I gave her the evening to cry, and she used it well. In the morning, I dug a hole, and after lunch, we had a beautiful funeral. Everyone spoke, and afterwards, we had light refreshments. She was pleased with the ceremony, the turnout and the lovely things people said about Sugar. A week later, she was asking for a kitten.
I think we give too much power sometimes to our negative emotions. We let them rule our actions and perceptions, let them hold sway over our lives for too long, but it’s just as easy to turn them on their head. A certain amount of wallowing is necessary for one’s mental health, but after you’ve had a good cry, it’s time to pick up and go on living. Bad things are going to happen; acknowledge them, accept them, and then set them aside and go bake a really good chocolate cake. It makes all the difference in the world.
* For the record, I only served them ice cream that one time. It was a really bad day, and I added bananas, so it was kind of nutritious, right?