Every night, dinner at my apartment usually consists of the following:
Me asking my husband what he wants for dinner. Him asking me what I want for dinner. Both of us staring at each other for a moment before agreeing that neither one of us knows what we want for dinner.
This is followed by a quick scan through the fridge and cupboards to see what we can, in fact, make for dinner. And by "we" I mean my husband - he's much more adept in the kitchen than I am.
While this part is usually unorganized and once in a while results in little more than a bowl of cereal for supper, for the most part, I'm fine with this stage of our dinner-making process.
It's what comes next that needs some tweaking.
You see, we used to own a dining room table, and it was my favorite part of our house. It was a wooden, rectangular thing of beauty that we stumbled upon on sale for half price at a thrift store. The table and four chairs came to $25. Sure, one of the chairs was a little wobbly, and yes, the back of another one, if you leaned on it, felt like it was going to tilt back 90 degrees and put you in a position more suitable for launches into space. But the whole set was only $25. A few dangerous chairs wasn't going to stop that deal from being made.
And though we had many good times sitting around the table - grilling out with friends, big breakfasts on Saturday mornings, a candlelight dinner every once in a while with just the two of us - we had to leave it behind when we moved into a smaller apartment. There just wasn't the space to put it anywhere.
My husband sold the table to another couple while I was at work, which was probably for the best. It may have even been better if he'd told me the table went to live on a nice, table farm somewhere out in the country where it could roam free.
Now that we are a table-free couple, the part that comes next in our dinner-making ritual is the part I'm wishing we could change: After dinner is made, we sit on the couch and either balance our plates on our laps or hunch over the coffee table to eat. Now, we usually watch something on TV with our evening meal. Sometimes it's a quick, 20-minute sitcom, sometimes we opt for a documentary and once in a while we'll go for a brain-cell killing reality show.
What's missing is that distraction-free time we had together.
That table - cheap as it was - gave us an excuse to talk to each other over a meal at the end of every day.
Dinner conversation is a little harder to come by when we're both facing the same way, trying to balance hot plates on our knees.
As a child, dinner in my family was a daily occurrence. It was the one time I sat down and talked with my entire family, every day. The TV was turned off, we let the phone ring and we told each other about our homework for the weekend or the crazy thing that happened at work that day.
As we got older and my two brothers and I found jobs, family dinner wasn't as easy to organize, but we managed to sit down as a family the majority of the time during the week.
Starting out, my husband and I had that. We ate meals together and with our friends, did puzzles, played board games. We don't do those things as much anymore without our thrift-store table.
We're going to be in this apartment for a while (a lease will do that to you) but I'm looking forward to the day when we can get those moments back.
And if you're reading this, and you happen to be the person who bought my table, treat it well. Use it every day. You'll miss it when it's gone.
Jackie Stark is a Marquette resident and a staff reporter at The Mining Journal. Her column appears bi-weekly. She can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.