Four generations of the family gathered at a beach rental for a summer vacation. Not everyone is here at once. Some are coming for the day, some arrive for a few days and then have to go back for work.
We never know exactly how many are going to be here for dinner. Getting a head count proves difficult. Carol or Mom or my sister or I make calls before going to the market. “Are you coming tonight?”
Beach time proves elusive for many, but everybody tries to make dinner. My niece has dished up Rice Krispie treats topped with chocolate for dessert, my brother-in-law brings tomatoes he’s grown in his garden, my sister-in-law has made a hummus dip. We come in from the sand, take a shower, change clothes and gather as the sun slips into the ocean. The conversation bounces from subject to subject, what the kids are doing in school, the new dog, how’s work, baseball scores, a new bathing suit. Someone’s making a salad, burgers are on the grill, zucchini is almost finished, the rice is steaming.
Food is set out on the counter and we serve ourselves, complimenting the chefs. There are so many of us tonight we can’t all fit at the table. How did our family grow so large? Some sit on the sofa, plates in their laps. Everybody’s ready and the call goes out, “Who says grace tonight?” Mike volunteers, and in a voice so loud it can be heard down the beach, he begins, “Dear God...” We grab hands.
I feel my 80-something-year-old mom’s grip in one hand and my teenage niece’s in the other, the words of Mike’s prayer ringing in my ears. Should we be surprised that Jesus first offered the gift of himself to his disciples at a meal? In a beach rental, the generations linked, we give thanks for all we’ve been given. Soon we will leave this place, return to our homes, but for now we’ve held on to what was important. Amen, we say. Amen.
That's what's special about a prayer from childhood: It’s always there inside you, ready to be called to your lips when you need it.