My sisters and I always looked forward to family night with childlike eagerness.
My all-time favorite was “Mahaney Family Olympics.” When the 1984 Olympics took place, I was eight and Kristin was seven. We were captured by the sheer excitement of it all. I think that’s why this particular family night is so vivid in my memory.
In our flannel nightgowns we ran races around the dining room table. We threw ping pong balls into a bowl of water. And we we had a relay race with toothpicks and lifesavers. (You had to put the toothpick in your mouth, put the lifesaver on the toothpick and then transfer it to your partner—no hands). The climactic moment came when Dad would line us up in the foyer and hum the national anthem while awarding us our “medals.” I can’t imagine the athletes felt more happiness than we did.
Another favorite family night was the time we switched places at the dinner table. My mom had us draw the name of another family member and we had to sit in their seat at dinner and behave like them throughout the meal. I remember it being so funny to see my dad imitating my Uncle Grant (who lived with us at the time) and my mom acting silly like Janelle.
We repeated this family night again about fifteen years later along with the two pastors’ college students who lived in our basement. It was even more hysterical the second time, and enlightening too, to see everyone’s idiosyncracies acted out by another member of the family.
Finally, “Backwards Night” was inspired by the definitions of the word “backwards”: “doing something in the reverse of the usual, the right way,” and “toward the past.” We, of course, did everything backwards for that particular family night. We had breakfast for dinner. And we had to have fulfilled a “backward assignment” during the day and tell about it at dinner. The options were to wear an article of clothing backwards (one that people could see!), eat our lunch backwards in the pesence of a friend, walk backwards around the outside of the house three times (while it was still daytime!), or wear a nametag all day with our name written backwards. Then, at dinner, after we reported on our humiliating “backward assignment,” we looked backwards over the past year and recounted one specific example of God’s goodness.
These and countless other family nights formed a childhood rich in laughter and fun. I am so grateful for the time and effort my parents invested in these rich memories for my sisters and me. And I hope Steve and I can provide Jack with many funny, happy memories too.