The Perfect Centerpiece

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As we begin to turn the corner toward Fall--yes, I'm already looking toward cooler temperatures and more holiday spirit--I was considering how spending another holiday season in our home would feel. My son is walking now, asking questions, getting into things, and wanting to try new foods. He's like a sponge. What will he absorb?

Of course, my mind reverts back to things that were important to me as a child. Talking to friends and acquaintances, I've noticed a trend.

My sister-in-law is pretty different from me; in fact, we could be viewed as polar opposites. However, there are similarities you just cannot overlook. One of them is her memories of childhood.

Shannon is Italian--or, rather, her mother is! Her memories as a child include an Italian mother who would spend an entire day preparing the Christmas meal...or any special meal. The sauce had to be tended for hours, seeping in delicious ingredients, filling the house with smells that now are a source of comfort to her.

Shannon's mother would--and still does--spend hours in the kitchen preparing the best lasagna you've ever put into your mouth. And her spaghetti and meatballs take several days to create...but you've never tasted anything like it!

Today, Shannon is a mother instilling memories in her own child. While she correlates the holidays with the aroma of Italian manna and a mama happily singing in the kitchen all day, I wonder what special memories she is passing on to her son.

For me, a certain corner of my childhood memories also relates to large family meals. My grandparents' house was the meeting place for holidays and every holiday season, I remember the hustle and bustle of four aunts, my grandmother, and my papa all jostling around the stove, the oven, the fridge, and the snack bar, each helping to prepare a glorious feast!

I remember the smells of the kitchen and papa giving us cousins a taste every now and then. I remember him making us "snow" ice cream to get us out from under foot too! And then, there's the time every adult was so busy that no one noticed us sliding a finger across the icing of grandma's red velvet cake! And then another finger...and another...until it was pretty patchy! We tried to smear and stretch the icing but you could still see the cake beneath! Whoops!

The kitchen--even in the fairly modern times that were my childhood--was the hub of the home. Include, if you will, the grill out in the backyard where my dad would grill up some mean steaks or the homemade ice cream maker that Grandpa sat out on the porch so it wouldn't leak in the house and you just about have the magical kitchen en totale.

Our world is now filled with magazines promoting various decor, this centerpiece over that one, how to fold napkins...but the most memorable centerpiece for me was the food itself and the fun of its preparation. Those holidays were about good food, enjoyment as a family engaged in a common activity, talking about the day without the interference of technology or bustling crowds; it was about grandma's heritaged linens on the table and the memories they stirred in her that she would share as she cautioned us not to spill; it was about clearing the table together so we could all gather around the same table to play card games until the early morning hours. It was about family, experience, enjoyment, and timelessness.

As holidays roll around...or as life speeds up with responsibilities...or as technology offers more and more distractions...Don't let the perfect centerpiece disappear. The most beautiful gift you can give your children is timeless enjoyment with you...where nothing and no one trumps the little stories they want to tell, where their merry grin and twinkling eyes can hold yours rather than competing with your texts rolling in, where food and fun and love hold a special place in your life simply because you love those you experience them with! Let your family be the centerpiece!

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