Way back in 1998– years before marriage and children–I read about a mother who had the best relationship with her teenage daughters in a book called A Woman After God’s Own Heart, by Elizabeth George. The image in this story affected me so deeply that I carried it in my heart all these years and remembered it when the Italian Mamas taught me about after school snacks.
The author recounts how she visited a mother once who hosted a lunch for some ladies. She writes, “from our table inside, however, we could see another table outside on her patio–a table set with linen placemats, starched linen napkins, freshly cut flowers in a vase, two sterling silver spoons, two crystal plates, and two crystal goblets for ice water.” She explains how this table was set for a teenage daughter’s arrival home from school where mother and daughter would enjoy a fancy dessert in long-stemmed crystal glasses.
When her daughter arrived home, she wasn’t on the phone with friends, distracted with work, or acting annoyed. Everything was about that wonderful, warm welcome–that might only be a few moments of a quick snack–to bless and love a daughter returning home. I wasn’t even married yet and had no idea if I’d ever have children, but I knew that this was the kind of mother I wanted to be.
So the snack platter began for me in 2006 with my oldest daughter’s return from her first day of kindergarten. While I don’t use crystal or flowers or anything sterling silver, I do have my blue and white plates and my Italian flair.
The image of the set table on the patio became a symbol of love and motherly affection all these years that the Italian Mamas helped me make my own.
When we think about motherhood, we often collect those symbols of when we feel most connected and most inhabiting our roles. And for me, among so many other possible moments, it’s the snack platter. I think back to a decade of after school snacks–the laughter, the tales of the school day, the soothing of concerns, the celebrations, and the looking into the eyes as I sip my ice-water, arrange the snacks, and say, “Now, tell me all about your day.”