Sunday nights are a special time around my house back at home in Wheaton, Illinois. They are a time when my family all gets together and has dinner as a group. It is a time when we all get to talk and share our stories of how our weeks went, what is to come in the following week, and other various topics. This whole Sunday night ritual always takes place in our dining room.
The dining room is attached to our kitchen; it is a small room, just large enough to fit our large oak dining room table. Around the table sits six large, old, creaky chairs. Week after week, year after year, we are always in the same formation around that table. My father sits at the head of the table, it is a position that illustrates respect and is furthest away from the kitchen, perhaps saying he wants nothing to do with the cooking and cleaning up duties. He is always first to sit down and the last to leave the table, because he enjoys his time with the family so much he wants to make it as long as possible. My mother sits on the opposite end of the table, the closest seat to the kitchen, which makes perfect sense because she is always the last person to be seated and is constantly getting up to get something from the kitchen. On the other side of the table sits my little nine-year old brother, he sits next to my dad because he is always in his shadow, he looks up to him and imitates nearly everything he does. He sits next to the furthest from the kitchen because he is not much of any help with the cooking or serving. Across from my brother sits my sixteen-year old sister and I. We are near to my mother because we help her cook and clear the table.
The grand oak table and chairs is what we eat this feast upon. The table is significant in many ways; it has been passed down from generation to generation of women in my mother’s family. My mother’s great, great grandmother’s uncle made it for her and her husband as a wedding gift back in the early 1900’s. The table has legs, which are etched with a floral design, each leg is like a small detailed sculpture done with extraordinary craftsmanship and care. The tabletop is smooth with three small cracks towards the left edge; there are a few small scratches from other everyday wear and tear suffered in the past one hundred years. The table smells like oak and reminds you of being out in the woods up in Wisconsin. One day this dining room table will be passed on to myself to use when I have my own family.
In the summertime, when the windows are open, the sounds of summer linger in the air. It never seems to cease, every night around five o’clock the melodic drifting music of the ice cream truck can be heard, as it is almost done intentionally, tempting the children with dessert. You can hear the children playing, balls bouncing, and the lawnmowers running. The air smells of fresh cut grass, which is a distinct smell that you only come across certain parts of the year. The air is humid and hot and makes your body feel sweaty and warm.
The yellow room is lit with a faint, candle like colored glow, which comes from the light fixture up above the table. This is not just any ordinary fixture, it is from my father’s mother’s first house. The fixture is made of green and red glass, which casts reddish and greenish light on to the yellow walls. On these walls there are two paintings, one behind my father, is a painting of a garden. This is a painting done by my mother, because she is an artist. This is one of her earliest paintings, so looking at it reminds me of how much her work has improved since I was a child. The other painting, behind my brother, is a painting she traded an artist friend of hers for a painting of hers. This picture illustrates a barn and a farm scene in Iowa. We always find it quite funny because it is hung crookedly on the wall and my mother swears it is perfectly fine.
Sunday nights inside the dining room the sound of laughter can be heard echoing off the cold, yellow, plaster walls. My family has a great sense of humor and we are always laughing. We have a small dog; Joey who is always under the table begging and howling for whatever table scraps he can get his paws on. My little brother, who always seems to be the one to cave, slips him the remains of his steak and with great effort tries to pass his vegetables off to the dog, who turns his nose up to anything green. The hard, cold, wood floor creaks at the slightest movement and the pitter-patter of the dogs paws can be heard sneaking around under the table.
The joyous room has the lingering aroma of fresh baked bread and steak. In an odd way, Sunday dinner tastes better than any other meal eaten that week, everything always tastes so fresh. The steak is always cooked on the rare side because that is how we all like it. The bread is moist and melts in your mouth. Toward the end of the meal you can smell the shortcakes baking in the oven, for strawberry shortcake with fresh strawberries that my mother purchased that morning from the local farmer’s market. A loud and obnoxious buzzing sound, the oven timer, alerts my mom that the shortcakes are done. It is perhaps the best part of the whole meal, a perfect way to end a Sunday night supper.