Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Death at Suppertime

Phyllis McGinley, author and poet, penned the following verse in 1948, decrying the media's encroachment upon that crucial hour once reserved for family meals.

Time and time again we wonder why the world is in such a sad state of affairs.

My personal solution is the maintenance of the dinner hour (free of television, telephone, and teleprompter)

Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupation,
That is known as the Children's Hour.

That endeth the skipping and skating,
The giggles, the tantrums, and tears,
When, the innocent voices abating,
Alert grow the innocent ears.

The little boys leap from the stairways,
Girls lay down their dolls on the dot,
For promptly at five o'er the airways
Comes violence geared to the tot.

Comes murder, comes arson, come G-men
Pursuing unspeakable spies;
Come gangsters and tough-talking he-men
With six-shooters strapped to their thighs;
Comes the corpse in the dust, comes the dictum
"Ya' better start singin', ya' rat!"
While the torturer leers at his victim,
The killer unleashes his gat.

With mayhem the twilight is reeling.
Blood spatters, the tommy guns bark.
Hands reach for the sky or the ceiling
As the dagger strikes home in the dark.

And lo! with what rapturous wonder
The little ones hark to each tale
Of gambler shot down with his plunder
Or outlaw abducting the mail.

Between the news and the tireless
Commercials, while tempers turn sour,
Comes a season of horror by wireless,
That is known as the Children's Hour.

I have been known to refer to this *Children's Hour* (say 5p - 7p) as the *Witching Hour* - that time of day in which all hell can break loose, if one is in charge .... of young children especially.  It can also refer to Longfellow's charming poem about his family.  I posted it last year.  

But after living through a few such bewitchings, I determined to avoid them.  I learned that my entire day would go more smoothly, if I knew what we were having for dinner and took at least a couple of steps early in the day to get that meal under control.  Thank goodness for freezers, crockpots, oven-timers, and dishwashers. 

Unfortunately, I discovered Mrs. McGinley after learning to cope without the benefit of her wise words.

But I continue to read her essays and poems because after all....

A woman's mind needs to be well-furnished.

She spends a lot of time there.


  1. Excellent, Dana. We have fought for sit-down dinners together. Even when one of us is sick (unless getting vertical would mean unspeakable nastiness) we encourage the sickie to come sit with us during dinner.

    Often these days, my husband and I are the only ones, but I cherish the time at the table.

    Thank you for this post.

  2. I didn't quite realize growing up what a blessing our *family meal* was, until I recognized that not all families do this. I now have a great model for what it should look like, and several wonderful references & encouragement to make it happen!

  3. My solution to that hour is a giant trampoline. ;)

    I am enjoying your great variety of poetry this year!