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A green tablecloth covers the three pushed together tables.
Glass pitchers of water, lemonade, and chocolate milk
sit on the adult’s end.
Ham buns, butter, fried beans,
strawberries from Grandma’s garden
all rest on oval plates.
A green salad (the real one, not the Jell-O kind),
potato salad, and potato chips
wait in bowls.
White china plates painted
with orange, pink, and red roses
are placed, one at each spot.
Grandpa sits at the head of the table,
and where the second table meets the third,
divides the kids’ section—
where the younger cousins bump elbows and feet—
from the adults,
the end I’m finally sitting at.
The plates and bowls fill
and empty
as they are passed around in a circle
like a merry-go-round.
We eat until we can
see the orange, pink, and red roses.
Even after we clear off our plates,
everyone stays seated,
looking towards the head of the table.
I know what’s coming
but I still get chills.
“Let’s sing How Great Thou Art,” Grandpa says.
My mom starts the song with perfect pitch,
and the rest of us add bass, alto, and soprano harmonies.
“Then sings my soul,
my savior God to thee.
How great Thou art, how great Thou art.”
The hymn guides us into Great is Thy Faithfulness.
The younger cousins fidget in their folding chairs,
but they stay and wait.
“Great is Thy Faithfulness
with all three verses,” Grandpa says.
“Summer and winter, springtime and harvest.
Sun, moon, and stars
in their courses above.”
No matter the season or place
we faithfully meet as a family,
to taste both
food and song.
Great is Thy faithfulness.
The Grandfather clock chimes four times.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Zac VanderLey

Zac VanderLey is a senior at Dordt University studying English and Secondary Education. His work has previously appeared in Lyrical Iowa 2021.


  • Ed Starkenburg says:

    Beautiful, Zac! Thanks for sharing this and for making your family an important part of your life!

  • Joyce Looman Kiel says:

    Chills at the memory (mine) and Great is Thy Faithfulness. Thank you.

  • Mary says:

    What a beautiful tender poem of a family gathering,enjoying each other and the Lord!

  • Elizabeth Perrin says:

    I love the story! Takes me back my family meals, gathered together, three generations deep and the stories and memories would fly. Thank you Zac for sharing.

  • Matt Bovenkamp says:

    Hey Zac. Great poem! It was forwarded to me today, and as a Bovenkamp-I’m wondering who your Grandma is/was? I’ve had that same meal many times in Lynden.

    • Zac VanderLey says:

      My grandma is Judy Bovenkamp (now VanderLey). She’s thinking you might be her cousin’s son? Since she has many siblings and a large family, it’s difficult to know.