I’ve always made a point to eat with my kids. Three meals a day, pretty much, give or take. Yes, there are plenty of days I do not feel like cooking and days when it would be so much easier to just say, “Everyone fends for themselves.” But nine times out of ten, we eat together. Mornings start with a hymn, eating together, and then devotional time as a family. We are breakfast people. No one passes up chorizo and eggs. We eat lunch together, followed by naps when the kids were younger. Sometimes I still take a nap. We eat dinner together, followed by night prayers. When I am not around or at work, meals still get eaten together.
My exhusband was never on board with this plan. He would take his food to the computer or TV, outside, or even the car, preferring to eat alone most of the time. But, the kids and I would eat together always. Many times I would read them stories as they ate.
The insistence on eating together has had some interesting consequences. First of all, we all learned to cook and work together in the kitchen. It’s not usually too difficult to convince the kids to help in the kitchen. Meals come together pretty quickly because everyone knows how to handle knives, the difference between mixing and folding, and how to make perfect rice.
Secondly, we learned to be in each other’s faces all the time. We have a big family and a small table. And we like it that way. Our meals are rather rambunctious at times. But that is where the details of life really come out. That is were we bond–and fight–and bond some more. Other people having joined our meal times have said they can be overwhelming. But also that there is warmth. Take us or leave us, we will be there asking someone to pass the butter and fighting over who gets to eat with the threek (which the Littles say is a fork with three tines and is a permanent part of the Gombojav lexicon).
My table generally has more room these days. The big kids are spreading their wings. And it’s bittersweet. I am proud of them and their accomplishments. And I am sad that they are not sitting close enough for me to clink my glass with theirs.
But once a month it is different. Everyone who can come back does. We go to Mass together and worship. We fix a big brunch to feast together and have a family meeting. It makes me happy beyond reason to have all my kids back in my kitchen, roasting one another, laughing, and talking in a way that is unique to the sibling relationship. They are little extensions of one another in some way I cannot adequately articulate. I don’t mean that they have any less autonomy, but they share history, characteristics, and an unspoken commitment to one another–even when they drive each other crazy. They are healing both separately and together.
Today was our monthly gathering. As we made our brunchy toasts, mine was simply to drink to my children’s success and to express how proud I am of them, but also to say, “you can always come home.” I don’t care if the world calls it failure to launch or the “boomerang generation.” Those terms mean nothing to me. In fact, here, I will say it plainly:
This is your home. Even if you move to the other side of the world, this is still your home. Even if you pile up degrees and become an academic force, this is your home. Even if you get married and have your own dozen kids, this is your home. Even if you make loads of money and are wildly successful according to the standards of the world, this is your home. Even if you aim for the stars and crash and burn, this is your home. Even if you work your hiney off and get burnt out, this is your home. Even if you make some bad decisions, this is your home. Even if you waste your life in reckless living, this is your home.
And because this is your home, you can always come back. Come home to share your joy. Come home to let me help you carry your sorrow. Come home to laugh about how ridiculous the world is outside this home. Come home to sort yourself out. Come home to rest. Come home to know you are accepted and loved. Come home for no reason whatsoever.
Make yourself a snack. Let me make you a drink. Take what you need. Bring your laundry. Take a nap. Build a fire. Light all the candles on the altar.
Stay as long as you like–until you have to go back to work and the outside world, until you feel peace in your soul, until you are back on your feet, until you can dream again. So many times I have found my healing in your beautiful eyes and as your mother I will spend my days striving to be worthy of you all.
You can always come home. And when it is time for you to leave again, I will try to never make you feel guilty for leaving. Instead I will send you off with some herbs for that cold you’re fighting, a book I think you would like, or leftovers wrapped up for lunch tomorrow. These are small things, but as you are all in some way extensions of one another in your shared history and current healing, these tokens are small extensions of my love and acceptance toward you.
Never say to your friends, “I’m going to my mom’s house.” Instead please say, “I am going home.”