The Dinner Question

When our daughters were young it was always a scramble to get everyone around the dinner table.

Like most children, they were pulled in many directions from after school activities, hanging with friends or the lure of just chilling out. They were distracted by homework, MTV and the latest boy news. So getting everyone together at dinner time was difficult enough and we were all tired, cranky and hungry.

Then I started to ask the dinner question that has become a part of our family ritual.

The question changed each night and often was a spontaneous thought or idea. It was a chance to get everyone talking and laughing and engaged in something silly but yet bonding. What’s for dinner, they’d ask and can you give me an advanced hint at what tonight’s question will be?

My first and favorite question was...If you could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, real or imaginary, human or animal- - -who would it be? They could be historical figures, scientist, artist or imaginary characters from the comics. Who gets a seat at your dinner party?

Lucy, Julia and Ella
 I remember my own first answer to this question since I often wonder what this experience would really be like.

I said that I’d want laughter, music and great food. So my trio was Lucille Ball, Julia Child and Ella Fitzgerald.

These were three important people in my life because they represented important parts of me. At least, they represent aspirational parts of who I am. Each of these three women is a legend in their respective fields and the thought of the three of them together around a dinner table brings a smile to my face, music to my soul and nourishment to the heart.

Ra El would often go with a spiritual theme like Rumi (mystical poet), The Dalai Lama or a being from another planet. Sarah would often choose her friends from the present day, Her only problem was Seafarer camp friends, Ravenscroft friends or some combination of the two? Fanny would struggle trying to determine who besides Britney Spears would get a seat at the meal. She'd plead to invite the entire cast from Friends and usually settle for Chandler and Rachel. Fanny wanted Calvin and Hobbes too along with Marty McFly from Back to the Future so the idea of just three didn't sit well with her.

But there is another answer I’d also like to give.

I imagine a dinner with three people at the same age as I am today. (56 for those counting) My guests would be my maternal grandfather Poppa George, My father Jack and a future grandson all at my current age. Imagine, being together with my grandfather, father and a future grandson all at a similar age and point in our lives. We’d meet as peers not as part of a family lineage. We could share what is on our mind and the struggles we each were facing. It’s a sobering thought to think about this group together at a common age since what makes the relationship so special is that we are from different ages and times.

Jeff, Jack and George at age 56
 Poppa George at age 56 (1956) was living in Newark, New Jersey so that he could be near his first grandchild- my sister Diane. I believe he would have been working at his own business called Newark Photo Services and was active in B’nai Brith, a Jewish philanthropic and community organization. He would have been two daughters about age 29 and about 33. His wife, my Grandmother Fannie would have been his bride for over 35 years.

My father Jack at age 56 (1982) would have been just starting to work as a stockbroker with Merrill Lynch. After a series of jobs that lead him from West Virginia (commuting) to a stint with a record company (Creed Taylor Inc.) as Chief Financial Officer in New York, Dad finally realized that having more control over his life in his own quasi-business made sense for him. He was a financial whiz and wonderful at building relationships and trust from others. Being a broker seemed a perfect fit. At age 56 Dad had three children, Diane who would have been 32, me at 28 and Mitchell at age 22. He too had his first grandchild, Jaime who was six in 1982. In that year, Dad reached his 34 wedding anniversary.

Now this prospective grandson that I mentioned is a little harder to imagine since neither Sarah nor Fanny is married. However assuming that this child needs to be 56 to have a seat at the table, we are talking about 60 years from today- let’s call it 2070. That is a long time away. Remember that this is a dinner game- and I don’t have to deal with reality when thinking about this.

So we are all together at the table and we are all 56 years old. What would we talk about? What would we have in common? What would be the center of our conversation?

If I listen carefully I imagine this conversation would revolve around our family and our children. Sure we might talk some politics, how badly the Mets have been or the latest photographic technology that would amaze us all. But at the heart of our conversation would be our love and pride in our children and their accomplishments as well as our happiness with our marriages. The conversation would revolve around our family.

Since this is my dream- my dinner- I know I’d be responsible for the food and that too would be fun to think about. Would Poppa George like Pad Thai, would Dad eat some wildly new food fad from 2070 or would I just serve Chinese or Millburn Deli sandwiches since it would be a nice common denominator? Knowing me, I’d probably roast a chicken.

Who would fill the three seats at your imaginary dinner?

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,