In 2012, while my husband was away on a yearlong military deployment, my three sons and I hosted one new dinner guest to fill his seat each week. That experience became the memoir Dinner with the Smileys—published by Hyperion and featured on Parade’s Mother’s Day cover—this spring.
Although my husband has been home from deployment for almost a year now, the boys miss the experience of meeting someone new each week. Socializing over dinner has become something they expect… and treasure. Who would have thought?
Over and over again the boys have asked, especially after meeting someone new and interesting, “When can we do a Dinner with the Smileys again?”
“But Dad is home,” I have said. “We don’t have an empty seat to fill.”
And yet, it became clear to me again, as it did in the pages of the memoir, that inviting someone to dinner is about more than “filling an empty seat.” It’s about relating to people in our country’s best theater for conversation: the dinner table.
So this month, we began Dinner with the Smileys again, this time, with Dustin at the table, too. Our plan is to highlight one inspiring dinner guest each month, and I will tell you about those dinners in my column here. I’ll leave hints about our upcoming guests at the Dinner with the Smileys Facebook page, where I’ll also share pictures from the dinner and ask for recipe suggestions. The winning recipe will be featured on the Dinner with the Smileys Pinterest board hosted by Parade.