Public Media for Central Pennsylvania
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

This I Believe: I Believe In Family Dinners

Essayist Jaimee Kester
Erin Cassidy Hendrick

I believe in family dinners.

Every Sunday evening like clockwork, my cousins, aunts and uncles would appear at my grandparent’s old farmhouse for dinner. I never thought twice about our weekly tradition, it was business as usual for my family. It wasn’t until I left for college and wasn’t able to go, I realized what my grandmother created for our family.

My grandmother loved entertaining and feeding people. Her Polish roots found their way into every meal she made, even if it was just what she named the dish. One of my favorites is her “polish pizza,” which everyone, myself included, has tried to recreate and failed every time. But it was her spaghetti and homemade sauce that was a staple at her dinner table. You'd have to remember to wear your “spaghetti shirt” though, or risk splattering it all over yourself. If you wore red, you were in the clear.  Every week, 14 of us gathered around her table to share her delicious dinner.

My older cousins seemed like big brothers to my sister and I, and eventually to my younger brother and cousin. After dinner, we entertained ourselves by putting on plays, making forts outside and holding endless whiffle ball games while the adults cleaned up dinner and caught up with each other. We laughed at inside jokes around the dinner table that we still share today. We celebrated hundreds of birthdays, with my grandmother always serving the honorees favorite pie and trick candles- her specialty.

After my grandfather died in 2007, our dinners became less frequent. It was a lot of work for my grandmother to take on by herself and all of the grandkids were getting older. It got hard to corral everyone together in the same place at the same time. We settled for once or twice a month, but kept the tradition going as best we could.

But I didn’t realize how much I missed the tradition until after I left for college. I found myself jealous of my family when my mom told me they went to Grammy’s for dinner. Not just jealous that they got to eat homemade pierogies and beef stew when I was stuck with dining hall cuisine, but because they got to spend time together. It was then I realized the power and strength in the tradition my grandmother created.

Last April, my grandmother passed away. But we haven’t let the tradition of family dinners pass with her. Though it may be relegated to holidays and other special occasions, we are determined to continue, even without our fearless leader. This past Christmas, I made homemade pierogies for the family dinner and I could feel a little bit of my grandmother’s spirit with me as I formed the dumplings.

Those family dinners set up a strong foundation for our entire family to lean on, no matter what the circumstances. I am grateful that my grandmother held this tradition for so long.  My grandmother may no longer be cooking Sunday dinner, but she left us with the strength to continue it on our own.  

Jaimee Kester is one of WPSU-FM’s spring interns this year. She is a senior at Lock Haven University, graduating this month with a degree in Communication. She’s planning on staying in Lock Haven and hopes to get a puppy after graduation.

Related Content