From Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul

The Family Dinner

I looked at my twin teenagers and I wanted to cry. He wore baggy pants, orange hair and earrings. She wore a nose ring, a fake tattoo and three-inch nails. It was Passover and we were on our way to the relatives . . . for dinner . . . to celebrate.

What would the family say? I could just imagine the whispers of their aunts and uncles, the looks, the clucking of tongues and shaking of heads. I could have started an argument right there, at the door, before we left. I could have threatened and ridiculed and grounded. But then what? I knew I didn’t want a fight and harsh words said on this day.

It would have been easy if they were only nine. “March back into your rooms and put something respectable on!” I would have said. But they were 16, and what they had on—to them—was respectable.

And so we went. I was ready for the looks, but none came. I was ready for the whispers. None came. My kids sat (looking a bit awkward) around the table of 20. They sat alongside the scrubbed and perfect shiny faces of their little cousins. They participated in the service and they sang the holiday songs. My son helped the younger ones read. My daughter helped clear the dishes in between courses. They laughed and joked and helped pour coffee for the elders.

I realized as I watched their beautiful faces that it didn’t matter what anyone else thought. Because I thought they were terrific. They were carrying on our tradition with enthusiasm and love. And it was coming naturally—from their hearts.

Sitting across from them at the table, I studied them. I knew that the hair, the baggy clothes and fake tattoos were just a statement of who they were for the moment. This would change with time. But their participation in the songs and ceremonies of our holidays and the closeness of our family would be within them always. As they grew older, I knew this would never change.

Soon, the Passover celebration would be over. The loud music, friends and chaos would again be a part of our lives. I didn’t want this special night to end. These were precious moments that sneak up on us as mothers. I don’t think it matters how young or old our children are. Sometimes, it’s just a quick, funny smile, or a small gesture they make that sparks that overwhelming feeling of total love.

I watched my son and daughter and felt their peace and happiness. At that moment, I wanted to jump up and hug them. I wanted to tell them what great kids I thought they were. But I didn’t. At that moment, I wanted to walk over and pinch their cheeks as I did when they were nine, and tell them I thought they were beautiful. But I didn’t. Instead, I sat in my place and sang and ate, and talked with the others.

Later, on the way home I would tell them. In private, I would say how much their presence at the table meant to me. I would tell them how great they were and how proud I was to be their mom. Later, when we were alone, I would tell them how much I loved them. And I did.

Shari Cohen

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