I come from an over the top family. While we are culturally Lutheran with Nordic emotions, dinners together are usually loud and chaotic. We usually serve food by lining everything up in bowls and on platters across the counter and fill our plates in a first-come-first-serve order. Condiments pour out of the fridge and on to the table. Dozens of almost empty salad dressing bottles and types of steak sauce litter are passed from end to end after we sing grace and finish with a single, booming clap in unison. Perhaps there is some Italian blood in there we have yet to discover.
The Matriarchs in this madness are my mother and her twin sister. If you set them loose on remote beach, they will use small talk to find someone we're distantly related to before dinner. It is in this environment I've grown, knowing third and fourth cousins and reconnecting with people five times removed from me.
Last week I had dinner with the twins and somewhat distant cousins that connect me to Cottonwood, MN and Cape Town, South Africa. It is in these moments filled with memories and connections beyond me, that I believe in the sacredness and stubbornness of Oral Tradition. These women light up and become lost in the stories of ancestors and adventures, becoming and letting go. I often hear the same tale repeated each time I met or hear of a distant auntie or wild woman and simply nod to absorb the urgency with which they share. They tell so that I might know, understand, and remember. That is what the storytellers of long ago did to make sure the word would be recognized into the future.
I smiled to myself as these women engaged over dinner, the volume escalating and laughter encompassing the patio area with each glass of wine poured. The bread pudding came with candles and a faux-birthday was celebrated for the sake of free dessert and a friend in town. Spoons were handed out and they watched her wish on a candle for a birthday to come halfway around the world.
And then the enormous plate was passed from hand to hand until dozens of spoonfuls devoured the food and left women feeling satisfied with the story shared.