Family Dinner

It started as a way to save a little money and catch up with friends. They’d rotate apartments—which were really a few glorified small rooms smashed together—and share a meal on the scariest night of them all, Sunday. Often they found themselves crowding around a coffee table or sitting crisscross on the floor, since having the space for a kitchen table was laughable. It was always the six of them. Sometimes new people would filter in and out. The man of the moment, a friend visiting from town, a sibling, but the six of them held court.

An unbreakable bond was formed. One that could only be welded together by shared heartbreaks, salaries that barely allowed them to live in the big ol’ city of Manhattan, and gratitude that they were there. Against all odds, they were New Yorkers now.

“Two Buck Chuck” became a Sunday night religious experience. It was precisely their price point, and they felt fancy drinking out of a bottle rather than the boxes they’d been accustomed to a few months prior in college. Wine out of chipped, hand-me-down wine glasses rather than solo cups, this was adulthood. This was grown-up.

In the early “Manhattan Years”—as they’d later in life refer to them as—the conversations stemmed around terrible dates, feeling of incompetence at work, and the unspoken but very real fear maybe they were not “cutout” for the mind-fuck that New York City could be. No matter what, they had the protection and the reassurance of Family Dinner to look forward to.

Weeks turned into months, and months turned into years of Family Dinner. New members were added, apartments got ever-so-slightly bigger, and there was talk about leaving the city. During the early Manhattan Years, they would have turned on the rouge outlier for even suggesting such a thing. But after a decade, they got it; it’s hard to pinpoint when, but there was a shift, and they all felt it.

They were up against the most devious evil of all, time. The right time to leave the city or get married or have a baby or change career paths. Time to be with their parents—or grandparents if they were lucky enough—time to really think about what they wanted their life to look like.

Much like life, Sunday Dinner went through a metamorphosis of its own. What once started around small coffee tables moved to restaurants or houses outside the confines of the city. The love of the people and memories shared would be the tie that bound them together. The location became second fiddle, and when they didn’t feel like cleaning up post-dinner, a restaurant seemed like a lavish treat their 20-somethings selves would be in awe of.

“Excuse me, ma’am, your party is waiting.” Ma’am, that stung. The hostess was a barely twenty-something herself and looked nervous, perhaps questioning her own reasons for being in the City. Meeting her eyes with a smile, we walked to the table, to the Family Dinner in its latest form.

Haley is a copywriter who works in Manhattan and writes short stories in her free time. She's a massive Bruce Springsteen fan with a weakness for pizza. Check out Haley and her creative partner’s book here.


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