I think it might have been several years ago, right about the time when our nest emptied out, that my husband and I started eating dinner in the living room, in front of the TV. There were several factors, really. One of them had to do with the fact that we didn't have a kitchen table anymore. We had just moved into our new home and along with all of its wonderful features, it also had a - well, challenging - kitchen. We never did figure out how to put a kitchen table in it although we've had several variations. We even pulled down the dish cabinets suspended above the L-shaped counter - but that's a whole other bottle of wine as they say.
(Or do just I say that...?) Anyway - over the years the dining room has been the go-to room for holidays and bigger family-type dinners, but when it was just me and him - we defaulted to the living room - and the TV.
A couple of weeks ago, I moved all the Christmas wrap that I got for 50% off at Target off of the dining room table and put on a tablecloth. I polished the two pewter candlesticks that were stashed in the china cabinet and blew the dust off of the candles. I pulled out two of the Lenox china plates that my husband had salvaged from his divorce (seriously...that's what he had to have? Not the better car or the house...the Lenox china set? Oh, well....) and two of the nice wineglasses from the set of four that belongs to my daughter, but that she stores at home. Hers came from Crate and Barrel - mine come from Ikea.
When my husband came home, he was shocked. Not because I had also made dinner, but that the table was set and we were finally going to do what we had been saying we were going to do for years -- eat in the dining room. The easiest thing to do when you come home exhausted from a long day is to fix a meal, put it on plates (or "plate it" since plate is now a verb) and head out to the sofa and the TV tray with your condiments and utensils in hand. To his credit, my husband always put a cloth napkin down under his plate - even on the TV tray or the coffee table (Ah, I guess now that Lenox china thing makes sense...) but our focus was on the TV and rarely did we have a converstation that lasted more than your average commercial break.
Now, since we've been doing this pretty regularly since we started, we have long conversations about our day, what's going on with our family or just interesting stuff we heard on the radio or saw online. We share in the cooking and the cleaning (mostly he cooks, mostly I clean) and we linger when we're done, because the candles are still lit and the conversation is still going. Eating in the dining room has carved out a place in the day where there isn't something else going on that we have to pay attention to. Actually, we seem to be paying attention to each other. And isn't that nice?