Sunday, June 24, 2012
Dinner on Star Island was meant to be "family style". I was seven the last time my family all sat down to eat together. My only memory from that time is puking after my mom made me drink all of my milk. I showed her. My family missed many opportunities to give thanks for being together with a roof over our head and a meal on the table, or to share anecdotes from our day at work or school, or to just sit and enjoy each other's company. The divorce made it so we would never have the chance to make up for it, even if we had been blessed with the insight into just how important family time was. While attending my last residency for my MFA this past week on Star Island, I was forced to dine in this manner. There was no television or radio and we were made to eat at a certain time. If you wanted food, you were there at 6:00 for the dinner bell at 6:30. In a flurry that mimicked the running of the bulls, you would have to squeeze your way through the crowds of people, find a seat, and plant yourself in it in a matter of seconds to ensure that 1, you actually had a plate and fork of your own and 2, that you would be lucky enough to be at one of the tables that got served first. Enter D.R. Leo and John Stern, two gentlemen attending the SNHU MFA residency along with myself. To give them credit, they had devised a genius plan to not only get served first, but also put in a request for seconds first as well. It was simple: these two men would host eight other women at their table. "They eat less than we do," was John's reasoning, but I think he secretly liked being surrounded by us. Even though they came through for us, it wasn't their ability to get us fed, and quickly at that, that left an impression on me, it was their ability to truly make it a "family style" meal. On the last night of the residency, Darren and John posed questions to our little group, such as "What was the first album you ever owned?" or "What book, food and condiment would you want if you were stranded on an island?"-very appropriate given our location and circumstances. But it wasn't just that they kept us entertained with their hypothetical situations and questions, it was the fact that they made sure every single person had a chance to be heard when responding. We toasted the person to our right, and acknowledged the diversity of the group that had assembled. A mix of young, old, skinny, fat, quiet, loud, pop-loving and good-music loving students were in my company that evening and I truly felt the ghost of family was present. Thank you John and Darren for dinner on Star. It wasn't what you said, but how you made us feel that will stick with me when I enjoy my next meal with family- related or not. You rock.