[First published August 2016]
Growing up, our dining room was always crowded—with people (remember, I am the fifth of six children), with furniture, with china, with pictures on the walls. And it was used. We ate there daily; my memory is full of long dinners with family and friends, laughter, good food (I have never, ever eaten a better lemon meringue pie than my mother’s), even boredom. Yes, boredom—so many long, grown-up conversations.
I took it all for granted.
But I took in more than I realized. Among the pictures on the wall was a watercolor of a boat harbor. I studied that on evenings of seemingly endless adult talk.
On hot summertime mornings at my grandmother’s dining room table, I stared at an oil painting she had done. While shoveling spoonsful of Cream of Wheat into my mouth, my eyes consumed that impressionistic image of people promenading along a cliff walk. Its bright strokes of color and interlocked shapes penetrated deeply into my mind. I close my eyes and it is there still, along with her bustling care for me.
Early in their marriage, my eldest sister and her husband bought a glorious abstract painting that has held pride of place in each of their homes over the years. And in each of their homes, family has gathered to laugh and share and eat and love one another, while that painting has blazed down with all its brilliance on us.
And so I realize this vital link in my life, in my growing up, in my becoming who I am—this conjunction of art with family and food. It is a combination of spaces filled with the bounty of love, and lemon meringue pie, and the beauty of art. My body was fed well—just as important, perhaps more important, my heart and my soul were fed as well.