One thing I want you to know about my family (both my family of origin, and the family that I am creating now) is that there is always enough. Always more room, always more food. You are always, always welcome. As a teenager, my house was the gathering place, and my mom never grumbled at the way the teens rummaged the cabinets for food, and always finished the milk. I have never, ever had a key to the house I grew up in. Never. Because it’s never been locked. It was not uncommon for my mother to come home to a quiet house after playing tennis, or grocery shopping, or helping at church, only to find, upon further investigation, that there was a soccer player napping on the couch. And that the soccer player wasn’t related to her.
And so it would go. In the easy life of my teen years, our sofas were often filled with friends, laughter filling up the space of living. There was always dinner to serve anyone who was around, as long as we all pitched in for clean up. I learned the lessons of giving and sharing early as a young child, but on a deeper and more practical level as a teen. You learn quickly that if you’re going to rely on your neighbor friend to drive you to school, you better be willing to pitch in on gas money. And as life got hard, I learned how to love people in real, practical ways. Yes, you can sleep here tonight. Yes, I’ll hold your hand. And yes, there’s more of where that came from. Eat up.
On occasion, while setting the table, and putting the finishing touches on dinner, the whispers of “FHB” would travel around the family. My mom would hand me the silverware to set the extra seat, and lean in close, whispering “FHB, Family Hold Back.” Pass it on. Not quite enough green beans, or a little shy on bread. No problem. FHB. Whether it was simple dinners with my teen friends, or doctor friends of my dads, or missionaries from church, it was our job to make our guests feel honored, and served with abundance of food, grace and love. I’m certain that my family didn’t invent the phrase, though I’ve never heard it outside of the context of my own family. This powerful and simple phrase, FHB, Family Hold Back, is one that we utilize in my own house today.
Family Holds Back in order to love others. It’s a lesson the was pressed in on my life from all sides, but the squeeze was only ever momentary. There was always enough. Sometimes it hard to see with our finite eyes the infinite ways that God can, and wants to, bless us. We just can’t imagine.
This abundance of space, of love, of food didn’t always come easy, but it was always full of grace.
Sometimes it meant eating a bowl of cheerios before heading to bed to fend off the rumbling tummy. It always meant honoring our guests, and serving them wholeheartedly. It was a workout in servanthood, a practical example of how the last shall be first, and a trial in flexibility. All good life lessons, if you ask me.
The play on these words, however, would happen when we’d gather as family, the big kind of family that is added to as years go by and families grow both in organic and inorganic ways. We’d slide the salad bowl on the table, and pick up our heads to the astonishing number gathered ’round. Sometimes it’s just hard to gauge how much you need to feed a crowd. We’d laugh good-naturedly, and say our grace, and admonish one another: “FHB.” And you see, we’d all get it. Each of us, we’d laugh too, with the realization that we’re ALL family here. We’d pass the plates, serve out the spaghetti, and all know that we are connected: through family, and through food, yes, but through this language, too. FHB. This common vernacular, particular to some sense of common experience, has the power to make us feel like we belong – to each other, to a place. So while we may not get as much of the famous Caesar Salad as we wanted, we come away with so much else, both loving each other, and being so loved.
This is part of a series that I post occasionally about the family sayings and folklore that are meaningful to me, especially in my family history, as a way to explore my own Story. Similar posts can be found here: back to zero, or here: near ‘nough. or here: it’s not that windy. Tell me some of yours!