Our Assigned Seats (mine is the empty chair)

These days there is a great deal of talk about the loss of the “family dinner”.  Pundits declare that families no longer sit down together for the evening meal at home – and that by missing this tradition, something important is lost.

I can’t say I disagree with any of these assertions.  My family sits down around the table for dinner at home perhaps two or three times a week, a much lower frequency than when I was a girl when we gathered almost every single evening for supper.  And the old fashioned formality surrounding the meal is largely gone.  Dave cooks (usually), we gobble, and I do all I can to have everyone remain in their seats for 15 minutes before dispersing like ants to their respective corners of the house.  But there is one tradition that has carried on without question or acknowledgement:

Assigned seats.

We do not claim seats for any other meal of the day; nor do we claim seats at any other table.  But in our house for dinner, the boys sit at opposite ends, at the head and foot of the oblong table; Dave and I are along the side.  Chase is to my left; Noah to my right.  There was no deep forethought put into these assignments.  They are likely the result of the random places we plopped down on our first meal at the house.  Fortuitously, their locations make a great deal of sense.

  • The boys are as far away from each other as they could possibly be.
  • Dave is closest to the patio door, the threshold to our outside grill
  • I am nearest to the phone and therefore in complete control of who we pick up for during our cherished 13 minutes together.

As a little girl, I was assigned the head of the table with my parents on either side of me, probably because I was “hyper” and needed to be in direct proximity to a stern warning or a fast escape.  Regardless we all kept to those seats without complaints for years.

And the tradition continues in my home.  No one has any interest in changing their dinner seat at the Mendell household.  If a family member is not present, their seat remains unoccupied in homage to their absence.  In fact, if ever asked to play musical chairs, I think we would all become noticeably uncomfortable.  It would feel awkward.  But just for dinner.

Familiarity does breed content; we are all quite pleased with our permanent vantage point overlooking our evening meal – and each other.  While we may not eat together as often as we did when I was a child, we still seem to embrace the guaranteed comfort and sense of being part of a family, manifested by a sure thing: a guaranteed seat at the dinner table.

Do you or did you have assigned dinner seats?  Are there other places at home or out and about where you always take the same seat?  Is it ever a problem?
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