My Kentucky Kitchen Table took place on November 11 at my grandparent’s home (next door to my house) in Alvaton with many members of my family. In attendance was my mother, Robin, who is a lawyer and enjoys staying up to date on current news and world happenings. It is very rare for my mom to not have an opinion about something. Similar to my mom is my grandfather, Larry, who is a retired accountant and Air Force veteran. He has very conservative views and isn’t very trusting of the national government. He always seems to have a very strong opinion about everything. On the other hand, my grandma, Deanna, who is a retired kindergarten teacher of 42 years is very much a people pleaser and doesn’t like to ruffle anyone’s feathers. Also an educator is my aunt, Shawna, who is a school psychologist at a low income, high risk elementary school. She has lived in a lot of cool places and done interesting things throughout her life and always brings a new perspective to every situation. My sister, Anna, is a junior at Greenwood High School. She plays volleyball. My brother, Brody, is a freshman at Greenwood High School and plays football. Neither of my siblings were very interested in contributing to the conversation. However, my little cousin, Kayle, who is 9 was very eager and willing to participate. She likes to act grown up.
My family has the tradition of eating dinner with all 10 of our close family members at my grandparents house every Sunday night. Everyone at the table had family dinner around a table almost every night growing up and we all love it and think it’s very important. We have always had the rule of no phones at the table and there is no TV in the kitchen or dining room. I didn’t know how much I would miss this but after eating out for every meal now, having the meal overtaken by cellphones, and eating on the run, I truly realize how much I appreciate it.
While we were preparing the food, I explained to everyone that we would be having a conversation about citizenship and community. Once we sat down at the table, I started off with the required question of “beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?”. My grandma was the first to chime in with “safety”. When I asked her to elaborate, she explained that she believes public safety is becoming an increasing concern in our society, especially since 9/11. My 9 year old cousin made a very insightful point. She said that being a citizen means being informed. We all completely agreed with this. My grandpa gave the example of how important it is to be especially informed about candidates running for office.
Next we talked about what everyone thought were the best things about our world today. My brother broke his silence to chime in that he thought brownies were the best thing about our world today. After some giggles, we moved on to some more serious answers. My grandma thinks that the freedoms we have today are one of the most important things about our world. We talked about how our personal liberties and freedoms have evolved as our country has developed. Now we have so many freedoms, including those of speech and religion, as well as those taken for granted such as choosing where to live and work. We talked about all the changes that my 102 year old great-grandmother has lived through. My mom pitched in that she thought education was one of the best things about our world today, specifically in our country. She has always stressed to us the importance of getting an education.
My family, my aunt and uncle’s family, and my grandparents all live next to each other on a family farm. So the questions about knowing your neighbors, and giving advice to your neighbors were harder to apply to us because we obviously know our neighbors… they’re our family. However, they had lots to say about how they felt their jobs served a greater purpose and how it contributed to their role as a citizen. My mom, an injury lawyer, is very passionate about her job and the people she helps. She feels that besides paying taxes and voting, her job is how she contributes as an active citizen. My grandma and my aunt both work(ed) for the school system, and also felt that they changed the lives of their kids at school which is one of their biggest roles as a citizen. My grandpa did not take a break from eating to answer this one.
They also had a lot to say when I asked if they had ever had a conversation with someone who is from a very different background than them. My grandparents, my siblings, my cousin, and I all agreed that we didn’t think we had. My mom and my aunt, on the other hand, had many times. My mom told us how it isn’t unusual for her to have clients that come from cultures where all dealings must be done with the men. Even if the woman was the one involved in the accident, they want her to speak to the man (whether that be her husband, brother, or father) about the case. She also has clients who come from very poor backgrounds, and often times may even be homeless. She says it’s very much an eye opener to work with these people. My aunt’s elementary school is low income and is majority immigrants, so she deals with diversity on a daily basis. She said more times than not, she has to have an interpreter there to be able to talk to the parents of the child who usually do not speak English. She also told us that it is very common for her to have to make home visits for one reason or another. She said certain cultures will offer you food, and no matter how unappetizing it looks or smells, you have to eat it because it is considered very rude if you do not. Out of my whole family, my aunt has definitely had the most experience with diversity.
My Kentucky Kitchen Table meal went really well, although it did not go how I thought it would considering my family is very loud and opinionated. During this meal, however, they were relatively quiet by their standards and were pretty much in agreeance on most things. They did give lots of silly answers and crack themselves up, which is not one bit out of character. Even though ours didn’t get much below surface level, overall, I think the Kentucky Kitchen Table project was insightful and the conversation is one that should happen more often over a family dinner.