Reunion Reminiscence: A Commitment to Nutrition

Reunion Reminiscence: A Commitment to Nutrition

by Jacqueline Gamble, LDN, RD

Out of a recent trip to my alma mater for one of those reflective, analytical, soul-searching treks into the past known as college reunion, there came about a story that keeps entering into all sorts of conversations. This story has become a highpoint of this weekend reunion because it reflects a good time with college friends, gives words to special memories and has a message that very much matters to me in my personal life as well as in my professional practice.

Four of us gathered late at night in one of our hotel rooms, recalling pleasant and hilarious moments, reliving our college years and, I observed, falling into our old familiar patterns of how we think, approach situations, express ourselves and interact with each other. I say old not in the tired-out way that we think of "old" in the 90s, but the "old" in terms of being comfortable, trusting, knowing what to expect, knowing someone and how they will think or react; and that special insight only that person has that makes him totally unique from everyone else.

All of us agreed we had a special relationship and commented on how it was just as comfortable being together in 1993 as in our college days. We also wondered that, after all these years, it felt no different to be together, even though our present lives are so varied. Why? We had not really done a good job of keeping up with each other; indeed, some of us dropped out of contact for years and this was the first time for all of us to be together since college.

"Is this something unusual?" we questioned. We all agreed that it was something very special. We also agreed that the apartment we shared, one that our nutrition and home economics teachers could have used as a model for a home management course, was the source of this special relationship. We all believed that the commitment that each of us had to the place we lived and the people who lived there enriched our relationships with each other and our lives far more than we ever could have known at the time.

Let me tell you what was unique about this student apartment. Because there were four of us, we took the necessary chores that every household has and divided them into four groups: laundry, cleaning bathroom and kitchen, cleaning bedrooms and cooking. Each person had one area of responsibility and we rotated these areas every week. The person who had "laundry" did everyone's laundry; the person who had "cooking" planned the menus, purchased the food and cooked the dinner each night. We sat down and ate together every night at 6:00 in our little kitchen that also served as a dining room and living room.

When I told this to my fellow workers after returning from this reunion, they said, "That's weird! College students just don't do that!"

It may be weird but it worked. It worked because we had a commitment to each other and to ourselves to make it work. We knew that as busy college students, we needed this structure to make our lives function better. We enjoyed, even looked forward to, the 45 or so minutes of sharing our lives before we dashed off to extracurricular activities and studying. It was during these times that we got to really know each other because, although we were probably unaware at the time, a commitment to eating together was a commitment to each other.

Just about all of us think at some time that our lives are running us and not the other way around. One of the most practical and easy ways to bring order back into our lives is to make a commitment to ourselves, our families and those we care about to eat meals together. To turn off the television, to set the table, to spend a certain amount of time with each other conveys to our children and those with whom we live that this time takes priority over all our other activities -- that our families are the center of our lives.

Being together need not mean an elaborate dinner that has taken a good part of the day to prepare. It means sitting down to soup and sandwich just as if it were a Thanksgiving dinner; to have the time with each other be a celebration; to have respect for oneself and for each other. This commitment nurtures our children and teaches them respect for each other, respect for the adults who give them structure and guidance, and a commitment to others outside of their own lives and activities.

What a valuable tool a meal is for teaching this to families. Imagine mealtime as a treasured time together, rather than a chore to be gotten through as quickly as possible so we can get on to the next activity.

As parents are getting children ready for school this fall, consider also setting a time for evaluating your family lifestyle. Consider using precious energy, time and creativity, not in preparing elaborate meals to be served on special occasions, but in providing your family with attractive and nourishing meals and making those times meaningful. Have your children be involved in setting the table and cleaning up. Let it be a time of teaching commitment and relationships to children or a renewal of commitments that have become third, fourth or fifth on the priority list.

There is a bonus: The focal point is no longer the "chore" of cooking; it becomes the giving of yourself to those you love. The rewards are far more than you could ever anticipate, both now and years later.

Outlook Spring '96