Welcome to the Smiley family! Specifically, Sarah Smiley, a Navy wife and a mother of 3 boys who wears these two hats with finesse, even though her husband is on a 1-year deployment. In fact, it is this deployment that prompted her to embark on a major endeavor.
Dinner with the Smileys began out of desperation: When my Navy husband left for a year-long deployment overseas, I didn’t want my three young boys to feel isolated and lonely. I decided to “fill” my husband’s seat at the dinner table with interesting people and role models.
What Dinner with the Smileys has become is an exercise in community and the magic that happens around a family dinner table.
So far, we have had dinner with a U.S. Senator who brought homemade brownies. Our mayor took us for a ride in a limo to get ice cream. The chief of police took us for a ride in his cruiser. Two local radio-show hosts took us bowling before the lanes opened to the public.
Yet, the richest of all these experiences has also been the most simple and ordinary: sharing a meal.
We’ve had lasagna with two college athletes and their coach. We’ve made tacos with a family whose dad was deployed the year before. We’ve shared bread with favorite school teachers. A representative from a local food bank made dinner with the boys and then passed them the ketchup.
It seems almost too simple. But if homes were like doll houses, with one side completely exposed, we’d see alot of lonely people eating alone to the hum and glow of a television. And it’s sad. Especially for military families who feel their deployed loved one’s absence most during times (like meals) usually reserved for togetherness.
There is nothing fancy (well, aside from that limo ride) about these dinners. I don’t have cloth napkins. Most of our dinner plates are chipped and broken. The recipes I use are quick, easy and inexpensive.
So my challenge to you is this: If you are a military family separated by a deployment, invite a neighbor to have dinner with you. If you are a civilian, find a military family and invite them to dinner. Keep it simple. Make the focus the conversation. And then come to www.Facebook.com/DinnerWithTheSmileys and post about your experience.
To get you started, here’s one of my favorite, easiest recipes, borrowed from a fellow Navy wife.