As a collective, we took a Sunday walk. Three children, two on foot and one in a stroller, and mum and dad. A reading on the thermometer registered warm enough that no one needed a sweater or jacket, but not so warm that anyone wore shorts. The sibling in the stroller had a blanket repetitively tucked under her chin and consistently removed by chubby legs and tiny feet spasmodically twisting and kicking. Mum pushed her. Dad walked sullenly behind, his typical nature as a peripheral prop in the picture. It defined family to me, as I was too young to understand that family meant more than walking with a member trailing behind.
The branches and leaves on the small hedges fell to the ground when our small feet lifted from the pavement and kicked against them. The bushes delineated the sidewalk from the small front gardens of a building, keeping the walking children from stepping on the evenly clipped blades of grass.
Families walk on Sundays and have dinner together. That sums up what I thought defined our family.
Dinner meant sitting in one’s chair at the designated dinner hour and eating what plopped onto the plate, regardless of its edibility rating. Conversation hinged on what Mum and Dad wanted to talk about and what interested them. They only involved us to pit one sibling against the other. Who had gotten the better grades, whose teacher had not called or sent an email about what the one had done wrong in school, that is what was counted upon and frowned upon. Seated at the dinner table with Mum and Dad, one was expected to regurgitate and opine on the travails of the day. World events were dinner fodder and used to spread shame if the reference fell upon youthful minds consumed with fashion, pop stars and lollipops.
Dad came home from work, went up to his office, and we were told not to bother him. He came down for dinner. Mum closed the door to her office at 7:00, and she came into the kitchen at 5:30, made a horribly inedible dinner, and expected everyone else to appear around the dinner table by 6:00. No one cared what anyone had done that day. No one asked if anyone had had their feelings hurt, and most definitely, no one asked if we had interest in what the other had done. The housekeeper fed us lunch. We ate what she cooked. Grilled cheese under the broiler. It bubbled and turned golden brown. The edges of the bread turned a slightly darker brown. She showed us how much she loved us by feeding us food we wanted to consume.
Whomever took the photo that’s in the album, with the yellowing corner tabs, must have thought we really were a family. Dad in his entirety is in the frame.
I equate edible food to love, and truth be told, photographs lie.