Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Rules of the Table

My sister, Jean, is a guest blogger today with this story she remembers from the family dinner table.

When we were growing up our Dad worked in an office north of Chicago.  We lived in the south suburbs so his commute was over an hour during rush hour.  When he came home he and Mom would have some quiet time with the newspaper and a glass of wine before we all sat down to dinner.  It was so much later than every other neighborhood kid that it seemed as if we ate dinner and then went to bed.  He insisted that with six kids manners were a priority at the table  A sampling of some of the dinnertime rules:

*All dishes were to be passed clockwise around the table.

*You could never take too much on the first passing to ensure that there was enough for everyone.

*If you wanted seconds you had to get the attention of the person closest to the dish and ask:
Me: “Tom?”
Tom: “Yes, Jean?”
Me: “Can you please pass the green beans?”
Tom: “Sure.”
Me: “Thank you.”

*Only one person at a time could raised voices and no interrupting.

*You could not take the last of any dish without first asking if anyone else at the table wanted some.

*You had to finish everything you put on your plate and when finished you had to clear your dishes from the table, take them to the kitchen and rinse them off.

Even though we had a lot of rules there were many memorable dinners and lively conversations.  I remember one dinner in particular.

Since we lived in a small house Kathy and I shared a bedroom.  The room was too small for twin beds, so we had a full size bed.  Kathy is not so much which was the cause of many disagreements.  The biggest one was over making the bed.    Kathy insisted the bed had to be made.  I was sure I had something better to do.  I have no idea what that would be but nothing was still better than making the bed.

The battle of making the bed carried over into the dinner conversation one night.  In retrospect, I'm sure mom was tired of hearing about it so she let Dad handle it.

After some back and forth I said: “Why should I make the bed?  I’m only going mess it up again.” 

To which Dad said..................

“Well, why wipe your ass if your only going to go again?”

The man who wore a shirt and tie every night while sitting at the head of the table, who insisted on impeccable table manners not only swore, but made his point in the manner that his smart-aleck kid would understand.

Then right to left the food got passed around the table.


  1. BEAUTIFUL! There is a robust writing talent in your family Kathy. Your father and uncle sound like wonderful, loving individuals!!

  2. Jean-Bob

    Us Werner kids can write a book on just dinner episodes. We all had those moments that stay with you... even 40 years or so later.
    One problem would be how to classify the book. Is it a comedy, tragedy, psychology, automotive repair, self help, history, medical ? Yea, it's all of the above in a tight little non-fiction wrapping.
    Thanks to the Speckled Trout for sharing that little gem of a story.