In space, no one asks you to pass the potatoes.
Year-in-Space astronaut Scott Kelly Tweeted out a picture of his family dinner table, after his return to Earth.
Astronaut diets don’t excite us anymore, once we learn everything is mashed up and put into plastic, squeezable containers. Everyone can empathize with the joy of sitting down with beloved family and friends for a good meal. These scenes, more than almost anything else we do, represent the foundations of our our civilized lives.
Two smart phone screens visible, and the photograph itself probably shot from a smart phone. The family dinner table changes.
And yet, this family dinner table looks familiar to most of us, easily recognizable as a place for social interaction, for talk, discussion, argument and love, throughout U.S. history.
Commander Kelly’s table includes immediate family and others — 13 places in all. Is it so much different from Uncle Sam’s and Lady Liberty’s table in 1869?
Is the Kelly family table so much different from the one Norman Rockwell depicted in his series on the Four Freedoms?
Which is not to say that every breaking of bread leads to peace and harmony, as I had hoped when I found this photograph in 2013:
Smart phones aside — in every nearly-accurate picture of a family meal some family member will be distracted from fellowship by something — getting together for a meal remains a cornerstone of human culture, of human existence.
Welcome back to Earth, Scott Kelly. You can bear witness to the accuracy of the Barry McGuire/P. F. Sloan line (edited here), “You can leave for a year in space, but when you return it’s the same old place.” We hope your witness will be more optimistic than when McGuire first sang it.