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Dinner at my home is an ever-evolving ritual. Oh, there's always the sharing of good food and good company, but the setting, people, and the times have been different. I've always believed that people with whom I share my dinner table, breakfast bench, or even TV trays are people 1) I want to know better, 2) with whom there's a potential for a relationship, and 3) whose company I value.

In my late teens and early twenties, when I was living at home or in my first apartment, a group of us would gather after church in somebody's car and go out to eat. As we got better acquainted, some of us formed our own cliques, and we spent our time together, in twos, threes, and sometimes fours or sixes. Everybody belonged and everybody was an integral part of our group. Eating with others was a way to get people together. Sometimes, it was a way to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas and not be alone. It was a way to gather with friends, share a little of ourselves, and develop relationships. I usually didn't invite business people, just the young couple who lived down the way who loved to swap meals. We were young, didn't have a lot of money, and eating together shared the cost and effort.

When dating and getting acquainted with partners, there were parties, dinners, and eating out. A sit-down dinner for a number of folk, however, was an anxious time fraught with thoughts of having to have the house immaculate and the meal perfect. I was practically ill from anxiety by the time company came, and dinners were complicated four and five course meals. Busy preparing and serving, I seldom had time to sit and enjoy my guests.

Once married, dinner was a couple thing. There were futile attempts to forge friendships with other couples, and since my husband and I were not really suited, we created only a few tenuous bonds with others. People from my school teaching job and his office were the people most likely to be asked to the house. There were neighbors and some friends, but they got fewer over the decade; as I finished my master's degree, he finished college, and people began to move, have babies, and change. At last, my one single friend and I would eat out at her neighborhood restaurant and bar called McFann's; we didn't have company for meals anymore.

The forties were divorce years. There were not many get-togethers at my home for dinner, but lots of singles. I'd have people in one at a time. I ate at restaurants with married and single people who wanted to know someone like me--people who were interested in the same kinds of things I was; lay counseling at my church, singles' activities, and holidays. Sometimes the guys would buy Kentucky fried chicken, and, as we ate, we'd get to share our lives, solve relationship problems, and just have fun.

For the most part, though, I tried inviting some single men to my home, but they were often so outnumbered by women, and had so many options because there were so few, hardly any came. I just wanted to get to know them, but they sometimes were crass in their responses to an invitation. Supply and demand does strange things to people. There were lots of dinners in our singles' ministry. It was a decade of searching for a group like I experienced right out of college. When it became obvious most of the people wanted to get married and did, eventually, I tired of single groups and began putting my energies into other activities at church and outside work, and in my middle forties began, in earnest, to work on my emotional baggage.

Dining became a family thing when I began dating men with families of their own. I began to meet the children and friends of people I dated. My new friends had me over for holidays with their other single friends, or I found other ways to spend holidays, like serving food at the Salvation Army, the Denver Rescue Mission, or other charities.

I remember my forties as a time of extreme discomfort and felt totally unsettled as I really didn't feel I fit anywhere. People were very kind, someone always made sure I had somewhere to go for holiday meals, but I felt isolated and was cut off from all folk who were my biological family. During that time of isolation and discomfort, I began thinking of myself as a one person family, and formed my own rituals and holiday traditions.

In my fifties, I don't feel desperate anymore, or lonely much. I have a wonderful circle of friends whom I love and who love me. I invite a group of as many as twelve to share the days after Christmas or New Years, or celebrate birthdays, or just the simple reason to get us all together. I still invite the people I love to my home, or people I want to know better. I have one single friend with whom I eat out, and see a movie. Once in a while, we'll do a marathon of four or five movies in a week and eat before and after. We usually wind up sharing family stories and chronicle our lives in greater detail because we spend so much time together in a short period of time.

The ritual is a strong one for bonding, as always. Jesus broke bread and drank wine with his disciples, and the ritual was for the same reasons: we share meals with the people we love, for bonding and great food, getting to know one another, for celebrating or grieving. The people, the meals, and the times change; but the ritual continues.

What has changed is the calm with which I prepare the meals and the thoroughly marvelous feelings I have when I have prepared weeks ahead, anticipated their coming, and then am really able to enjoy them when they get here. I'm grateful, in ways I never was, for the delight of getting to know new people, acquaintances who are becoming friends, and deepening friendships. Tonight, we had corned beef and cabbage, better known as boiled dinner. I designed some little green mugs with Baby's Breath and some small pieces of foliage, and placed them around a gorgeous yellow bud vase with a scalloped base my mom gave me the last time I was home. I shared my mom with my friends in that vase, and some of my mom carried on to them. We had a good time.

Enchanting is the word I would use to describe the evening. The warmth of candlelight, and light playing on cobalt blue dinner plates and goblets are memories that stay with me. We spent the whole evening at the dinner table, laughing, weeping a bit, enjoying a time when everything was forgotten except those moments. Perhaps, my next step will be to use the goblets, flatware, and candles, as I eat by myself. I'll set the table for one and make it an enchanting time just for me. Of course, I'll have to clear the table of all writing paraphernalia and clutter. Maybe I'll start a whole new ritual right there.

Lyn Carr started going to movies while in her mother's womb. She's a film buff, has taken film analysis and gone to film school for a bit. Born in Dalhart, Texas during WWII, she was an Air Force brat and moved every two years. Lyn got a degree in Education and taught for 34 years until her retirement in 1998. "I've been called a renaissance woman by a number of people because of my broad interests. I love being an entrepreneur and operating my own custom floral design business out of my home. I'm a clutterer, love people, nature, flowers and anything to do with the creative process. Writing is fun, too, especially rewriting when there's an editing software program and an editor available and I have lots of time for redoing a piece."

E-mail Lyn at:

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