Monday, May 29, 2017

Last Friday

May 29th, 2017

On Friday night, we went out to dinner.  Folks who know me know what that means: our regular Family Dinner Night tradition.  Years ago, when the kids’ dad and I divorced, I instituted Friday Family Dinner Nights for a couple of reasons.  First of all, by Friday nights, this then-single mama was TIRED.  After taking care of the kids all week, and running them to all of the various clubs, lessons, and sports practices after school AND working full-time, by Friday night I couldn’t wrap my brain around thinking of one more meal to plan, prep, cook, and clean up after.  I decided we’d let restaurants take care of all that for us at the end of the week.  The other reason—the more important reason, actually, was that I really wanted to establish some new traditions for our new household.  We had some traditions and rituals that we maintained from our previous life, but I felt it was important to create some new ones as well—continuity plus transition.  It’s a tricky balance, but one I felt was important as we forged a new beginning.

Friday Family Dinner Night wasn’t just for Friday nights though, contrary to the name.  Each week, we would take turns picking out the restaurant, in descending age order.  For the first couple of years, that meant that I would take us to a family friendly sit-down restaurant as fancy as, say Applebee’s or Chili’s, and Brianna was likely to choose one of those too.  On Nicholas’ nights we almost always went to Taco Bell, and Danielle’s choice wavered between McDonald’s and Burger King.  A couple of the rules were that no one was allowed to complain about the restaurant when it was someone else’s choice, and whoever got to choose that week was responsible for the “Question of the Day” for each dinner that week, both at home and at the restaurant on Friday night.  The Question of the Day had to be an open-ended one that invited story-telling or a conversation starter, and it had to be a different question each night.  Whoever was responsible for the evening’s Question of the Day had to answer first, and then each person in subsequent age order had to answer the same question—no passing.  We got to talk about pretty regular events, such as explaining something we had learned that day, and fantastical questions, like who would we cast to play ourselves in a movie, or what super powers we wished we had and what we’d do with them.  Danielle’s favorite kind of question early on was “What’s your favorite…” (Carebear?, cartoon character?, fruit?, sport?).  As the kids got older, the questions got better, as did the restaurant choices.  We tried to branch out and check out new restaurants as they opened or as we heard about them from friends.  As Doug came into our lives, he too became part of the Friday night ritual and rotation.  Also as the kids grew older, it became harder to sit down every night during the week for a meal due to increased demands of the kids’ activities, but that Friday night was sacred for more than a dozen years.  Even in lean times, when money was scarce, I clung doggedly to that tradition.  

So back to this past Friday night.  Brianna still participates when she’s in town visiting, and we automatically bump it up to her choice when she’s there.  Both Nicholas and Danielle have had to miss on occasion, and sometimes we move it to Thursday night to accommodate schedules.  It’s become trickier, though.  As a 20 year old, Nicholas has a work schedule that often includes a Friday night shift, and that was true this past week.  He comes when he can, but he’s growing up and moving on, and this last Friday found Danielle, Doug, and me at Chili’s, just the three of us.  It was a bit of a nostalgic sort of evening, since we are nearing graduation for Danielle.  I don’t know really how it had never occurred to me, but I suddenly realized that Family Dinner Nights, which have been such an important part of our family traditions over the years, is nearing its end.  Nicholas will still be in Fresno with us, and when we can we’ll still go out to dinner on Friday nights, but Danielle is going away to school, as her sister did.  She has two more months at home, and then there will be no more regular dinners at home—or out.  She’s branching out into a new beginning, as we all did together more than a dozen years ago.  She’ll be forming her own new traditions and rituals as she traverses this new path, and I’m excited to see what those will be.  But for me, that truly does mean the end of an era here.  She is my last, and there are things that I am just now realizing, truly, will ‘graduate’ with her when she goes.  There will be exciting things about the ways in which our lives—all of our lives—will change moving forward, but I am sure that this is only one of a great many things I haven’t even realized yet how much I will miss when they’re gone.  I have always known I would miss my kids when they weren’t part of my every day routine; I am only just now beginning to realize how much of my routine is about my kids.  We’re going to have to figure out new traditions to forge together, apart.  I’m going to have to find new beginnings out of my endings.