Thursday, June 16, 2011

The table is big enough


Eating together in the kitchen is as good a chance to bond as a family outing.

I AM grateful to Allah that I have great parents who have given me every freedom to make choices in life. They worked hard to make ends meet. I get that drive from them, to be a hard-working and responsible human being.

To me, whatever little we can afford is a luxury, especially compared to the poor and unfortunate.

But something was lacking in our family of four – family outings. I think the first and last outing we had was last year, during the fasting month. The buka puasa meal I arranged turned out quite nice. I saw both my parents enjoying themselves. I was happy to see them happy; I felt a bonding.

We haven’t had any outings this year because my dear father was in hospital due to his heart problem. Alhamdulillah, he is kicking and rocking now. I admire his never-give-up spirit, which has made him a stronger person today.

So why did we not have family dinners or luncheons over the years?

One of the reasons could be that it was just not our family culture to do so. Another reason could be my father was always comfortable eating at home, apart from his busy work schedule.

But my brother and I, the “eating out” generation, are more excited about having our meals at the restaurants. We do try to push our parents into going, too.

Mother finds it interesting, once in awhile – probably because we insist. But my father still subscribes to his rather conventional thinking – home is where everything is. He is right.

Sometime last year, while having lunch at home, we found that our kitchen table couldn’t fit the three of us. Father said: “We need a bigger table.” I said: “You’ve only realised that now?

His reply: “You are wrong. We never got a bigger table because no one was here. Only you are at home now. Next year your brother will graduate and come home. Then we’ll get a bigger table so we can all sit and eat together.”

I was touched by what he said. He was right again.

I had been away studying since 18. After returning for a year or two, I was transferred to another city for a few years because of my job.

My brother is also away, pursuing his studies. Even when we were back for the holidays, we would be making plans with friends.

We never spent Sundays at home even though my father used to say: “It’s Sunday. Let’s eat together!”

If we were around, we would join him, but I found myself sitting at the dining table in the living room, or choosing to eat later. Why? Simply because the kitchen table was never big enough.

But after that lunch together and father’s comment about the table being too small, we got a new one this year.

It is bit bigger than the old table, but I still find myself squeezed in the corner. What can I say? Maybe the kitchen area is smaller now?

Today I realised my parents were lonely without us. That was why father said what he did about the table.

Today I understand he always wanted us to come home and at least have a meal with him. Whether the table was big enough or not was never an issue.

But it was an innocent excuse for us not to eat at home. We failed to see how our parents felt, or what they wanted from us – just some togetherness.

When children grow up, they forget about their parents’ little needs. I was one of them. Maybe living away from family has made me like that. Sometimes I fail to see the little things.

I had this picture in my mind that outings with the family create togetherness. Maybe I saw the excitement other families had during their outings and holidays. It seemed fun to me.

Now I realise not everyone has to do the same thing to find happiness within herself.

I have realised that a family bonds not only by spending time outdoors. Having a decent meal at home can also make a big impact.

My father is happy that both of us are home now. He was right when he said: “Only now, everyone is home.”

What he means is that when we were not around, the table was enough for him and mother.

I have no regrets about leaving my career to settle back home with my family because, had I not, I would never have known if the table was big enough. And I realise the fact that you never know how long we will have each other.

The table is always big enough. It is up to us to find ways to adjust.

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