Reprinted from YO! fall 1993
Sharing a family meal wasn’t something that happened a lot around my house. The daily dinner time routine when I was growing up in Richmond was to come home and find no one around but me.
Now, after five years of living apart, I’m spending my senior year of high school living in Gary, Indiana, with my father and sister. The thing I value most is the supper we share.
Every night, around 6:30, all of us – me, my father, my father’s girlfriend, her two daughters, and my sister – sit down to dinner together. Last night we had pork chops, mashed potatoes, cabbage, and greens. We all trade off cooking different nights. If someone can’t be there, we always save him some food. We look out for each other like that.
Maybe this doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but it’s something I’ve never experienced before. In Richmond the family motto was "do for yourself." My motto was "eat what you can, when you can." I used to eat alone all the time, and so did everyone else. I ate a lot of fast food.
The only time my family would sit down at a meal together was when we’d go to Grandma’s house. Grandma’s generation knew how it should be. They were raised to eat with the family.
But my parents were young and struggling. When they got home they were either so tired they’d go right to bed, or else they’d want to go out and party. If they did eat at home, they’d eat by themselves in their bedroom. After my dad split, my mom had trouble holding things together. Sometimes my older sister would bring something home from Kentucky Fried Chicken, where she worked. Even then, we’d split up the chicken and eat alone.
Holidays were the best part of the year because we’d eat with the whole family. We enjoyed the different kinds of food and the warm atmosphere in the house, and we hated for those days to end.
For a long time I just pretended to myself that I didn’t care whether I ate alone. Now I know how good it feels to sit down every night and share a meal with my family. It means we’re taking care of each other.
Ron Fox is a co-editor of YO! magazine, a publication by and for young people in the San Francisco Bay area.