Family: Assembly required

Sitting in a Smashburger in Colorado Springs, enjoying a shake and some quiet time, I can’t help but notice the families here, especially the multi-generational one seated directly in my line of sight at the table in the middle of the restaurant.

Actually, it isn’t a table, it is several tables they’ve pushed together so that they are touching one another. It occurs to me that their “table” is a pretty decent metaphor for family.

We assemble them, don’t we? Sure, you can’t pick your parents (or your kids for that matter), but we draw people close. Spouses and in-laws are given seats at the table. There are cousins we invite to graduation, and others who see the pictures on Facebook. We include both those with whom we share some DNA and others we don’t.

Carpenters with furniture assembly instructions. Picture www.slon.pics [CC0] via Wikimedia Commons.

Like an Ikea dining room table, families require some assembly. We bring together disparate parts scattered around the dining room floor, feeling wholly unqualified for the task. But when the work is complete, the table becomes the centerpiece of our homes and our lives.

I wonder what brought the family sitting in the middle of Smash Burger together today. A graduation? An illness? A birthday?

Highlights from similar gatherings fill my memory. Falling asleep on the beanbag chair at my grandma’s house and getting carried to the car. Then, what seems like just moments later, carrying my own kids out of my parents’ house after a long day of playing in grandmom and pop-pop’s big backyard.

An uncle who introduced me to Sicilian pizza, an aunt who always talked to me like an adult, and lunches at the in-laws have all been part of my family experience. Times when someone has pulled a table close and invited me in — and times when I have done that for others.

This is family; a table of tables. A dozen people eating burgers and sharing stories. Those who love us — and who have loved us — more than we may ever know. It’s a makeshift tapestry or mosaic that tells us who we are as we celebrate together, grieve together, and grow together.

Sitting in Smashburger I give thanks for my family, for all the tables that have been pushed together to make room for me.

What about you? How is your family assembled?