By Abe Villarreal

Every time I think of a classic movie, I think of families at the dinner table. Mom walks in from the kitchen and dad arrives from work. It is a common scene in those black and white movies where families always include two or three kids and a dog.

This scene is familiar to many movies of the 1940s and 50s. Its familiar because it used to happen all the time in real life. Today, getting together for a family dinner seems to only happen for special occasions like family reunions or big birthday celebrations.

Family dinner time is not routine anymore, it’s something saved for special occasions. And now, across the country and the globe, we are living in a scary but special occasion. We don’t know how long it will last and in in some ways we don’t know how to behave.

At first, we felt like shrugging it off as something far away. We are Americans and can overcome anything. But then, it came a little closer and we became a little more nervous. The kinds of things we like to do are now forbidden, at least for a while.

So, we feel frustrated. The government is trying to keep us safe, and we feel like we already know how to stay safe. In reality, we don’t. We are not used to making sacrifices, even small ones. When our grandparents faced danger from far away, they didn’t wait to be asked to do something. They lined up and raised their hands. We were all in it together. Today, we become upset that our lives are interrupted in even small ways.

It’s difficult to fight something we can’t see. The answer at the moment seems to remain calm and stay home. Keep away from others and stick close to family and friends. The idea seems foreign to us. We love our family and friends. We are used to living our lives among them but not exactly with them.

Usually, when we get asked questions such as if we are going home for Christmas, we answer with big smiles. Thinking of family time and traditional food makes us happy and emotional. We get those feelings because the practice of family time happens so irregularly.

This time of uncertainty will pass. We will get through it and eventually we will forget it. As we get through it, we can do what they did in those black and white movies. We can choose to have family dinners. The dinners can include conversations, laughter, and a few tears too. The time at the dinner table can be long or short but it should happen.

You can share recipes or corny jokes. You can chat about boyfriends, co-workers, or the big plans you have for next summer. You can forget about rules and deadlines. You can eat too much and not care.

You have permission to do things that were once normal in our society. Now is the time to come together at the dinner table with family and friends. It will make this time of our lives memorable and comforting.

You’ll feel like you are in a 1950s movie. You’ll feel good and you’ll be doing your part to help heal a nation.

Abe Villarreal writes about life and culture in southern New Mexico. He can be reached at abevillarreal@hotmail.com.