By Lee Scott
This time of year reminds me of the fall of 1966, when my older sister, Jacki, left for college. It was a big deal in the household. The oldest child off to college. My parents dropped her off and came back a little somber. It was only when they returned and we all sat down for dinner that my sister’s absence became real. Instead of 10 people at the table, there were only nine. Someone was missing.
It seems odd to say that now. When you think of 10 people at a dinner table it sounds like a dinner party. Wouldn’t you think that nine was enough? But I have spoken to other people in large families, who say the same thing when someone leaves. There is a new pattern to get used to and even when the sibling returns for Thanksgiving and Christmas, it is not the same. They will leave again.
It was not long after Jacki left that my sister Pat left, then my brother, and then me. Dinners at my parents’ house were much quieter as the younger ones got used to setting the table for six and enjoying more elbow room at the table. Then something inevitable happened, siblings started coming back to the table and bringing more people with them. Spouses were added and then grandchildren. Before long, the crowd outgrew my mother’s Thanksgiving table despite the four leaves she placed in the dining room table. She would set up a long folding table, and the parents of the little ones would be relegated to the “kids’ table.”
When I tell friends I am from a big family there are the usual questions. What was it like with so many siblings? How did you put up with it? Where are you in the lineup? My answers are always the same. First, there was always someone to play with you when you are a middle child. If you got scared during a movie, there was someone willing to snuggle. If you wanted to practice singing songs in front of the mirror, someone was always there to sing along. And when someone was not at the dinner table, it just did not feel right.
Now, as we get ready to attend the wedding of my niece Kiera, the youngest of the 18 grandchildren and daughter of my baby brother, Tim, I am reminded once more of my parents’ table and that lonely autumn after Jacki left for college. They must have known then that the crowd was ultimately going to get bigger. And although they are not with us anymore, they will be happy to know we have many more tables to fill now.