I have been very fortunate in my life. I was blessed with shining examples of what giving was, and consider myself fortunate to have grown up believing strongly in giving back. I know this would not have happened had I not had the lessons learned from watching my paternal grandmother and my mom.
My grandmother gave of herself without ever seeming to think about it. She worked hard as a cook, and then came home and spent more time cooking for huge family dinners we all came to enjoy. You never saw her bat an eye at adding another plate or providing enough for surprise company and she had a way of being hospitable that made even new comers feel like they belonged. I am so happy to have those memories to examine and enjoy now and again.
"Nanny” set the example but my mom, her daughter-in-law, respected it’s value and I am sure recognized a kindred spirit. When Nanny passed the gauntlet, Mom took over in the same manner and continued the family tradition, also while working in her restaurant. While she was alive, the next generation came to feel the legacy of love left by Nanny, as Mom continued to recreate the warm, happy and often eventful dinners we all enjoyed. When company came, it was an excellent way for everyone to get together at one time, and we made the most of it. When something "big” had happened in the family, it was sometimes a way to deal with grief, or a stroke of great luck with those we cherished most.
I became aware of history turning the page one Christmas shortly after my dad passed away. Mom and my aunt came to my house for a "family” dinner. I was struck with the feeling that one often feels when they know it is a special moment and things are going to change and you cannot stop it. The gauntlet was being passed yet again, and now it was our turn. Of course I realized that all three children would be doing the same thing in turn for our own families even if our paths divided some from this point forward, but whatever road the family dinner took, it remained important to all of us who had taken part in the sharing of it.
Years later, I was thrilled to receive a call from my daughter asking if it would be alright to come down for a "family” dinner. Seconds after the phone was hung up, the ingredients were on the counter. An interesting thing I learned about preparing the family dinner was that it seemed to spark the meal up if you stayed in the moment while you prepared it, and did it with love. Although some feel that philosophy could be an old wife’s tale, I have heard many stories from cultures that value the gift of giving and being through preparing a meal with love. If you can plant that seed, it is so rewarding to see the seed taking root firmly in the next generation.
While enjoying a marvelous "family” barbecue at my brother’s house last summer, I knew that Nanny and Mom must be looking down and smiling. Part of them still remained with us as the ultimate gift, our family’s way of giving.