6/3/11

Around the Table

You can't choose your family.
You can't hand-pick genetic predispositions toward small feet, stubbornness and widow's peaks. You can't request blonde hair (though you can buy it) or dimples on your lower back (though you can envy every other girl in the 6th grade who has them). You can't avoid an occasional bickering or the way your mother's opinions find their place in your decision-making process, even when you haven't spoken or seen one another in days.

You can't always love your family the way they need to be loved. See them the way the world sees them. Tell them that you're proud of them nearly as often as the pride creeps in.

You can't go back, either. You can't take back those ugly words from high school disagreements with your older sister. You can't make her want to share her clothes (though you can stop taking them without asking).
You can wish that you were home more. That you got to go to every one of your sister's softball games. You didn't miss any concerts. You hugged your grandmother more often. You were there when your mother wasn't feeling well. You said "yes" when your father wanted to take you out to dinner.
To a certain extent, you can choose your husband.

But you don't have nearly as much control over your heart as you'd thought in middle school. And if you did, you'd probably mess it all up anyway.

And you can't choose his family.

You can't choose the four dogs or the Italian that dominates in ways you never thought possible. You can't demand your father-in-law's pride in his children or your mother-in-law's obsession with color. You can't always have a sister-in-law (just one!), but you can love every one of his four brothers, and not tell them enough.
I think the dining room table has become so associated with the American family not simply because it's where the family regularly congregates and celebrates. I think it has more to do with who we are in that sacred space - surrounded by people you can't choose, yet who choose to love even your unlovable-ness on a daily basis. It is safe, communal. A place where we're a fully alive and active member of something larger. It is home in the most encompassing sense.
Looking around the table, I can't help but feel that, though I could choose but one of these people, if given the chance I'd choose them all every. single. time.