Some of the best things that go through my stupid old head come from breakfast and dinner conversations that take place around the family table during family meals. I get ideas for topics, scenes, jokes, and notions for use in my fiction writing or in my nonfiction blog by chewing the mental fat with my kids. My daughter likes to talk about artwork, how to paint, how to compose a picture, and how to put it into the form of a picture book for children that she intends to write about mushrooms growing under the kid’s bed when the kid puts off the cleaning under the bed for too long.
This morning they made the mistake of asking me about my connections to literary nudists on Twitter. I added details about the first nudists I ever met in Austin, Texas in the 1980s. I told them about visiting an old girl friend in the Clothing-optional Apartments in Austin where she often stayed with her sister and her sister’s husband who lived there. I told them about how, being a visitor, I was given the option of being there with all my clothes on. I told them about making friends with nudists there that I stayed in contact with by mail. And this was an opportunity to talk about such things without totally mortifying them like I did the last time I talked about that particular subject at a Mexican restaurant where people we didn’t know could hear.
My number two son, the jailor for Dallas County, gets the chance to tell us his stories about being in jail (being a guard of course, not an inmate.) When his mother is not present he gets to share some of the profoundly blue-colored vocabulary he is learning from work at his new institution for the incarceration of serious criminals and mentally ill people. We get to discuss guns and gun culture, as long as we are careful to never criticize my son’s newfound conservative values, deeply held and violently defended in the manner of most conservatives.
And, of course, the dog is always there to look at the table with beg-eyes, because she can smell the meat that was cooked and usually consumed before she’s allowed to get near enough to snoop and see the tabletop. She has to settle for head scratching, tummy pats, and and smacks on the ear when she tries to jump into laps where she is not actually wanted.
Table talk is critical time for connecting with family, something that is far too rare in today’s world. And we make a conscious effort to keep it going because we are awake to its basic value.