I have this vision in my head of my large extended family sitting down to a Thanksgiving dinner, dressed in our finery, and enjoying our meal at a lovely table decked especially for the holiday. The tablecloth is perfectly pressed, the silver flatware is polished, the dishes all match and so do chairs around the table, and the centerpiece includes a graceful row of candles mixed in with some festive flowers or fruit. That’s the vision.
The reality is not quite so lovely. In the first place, not all of our family can make it for Thanksgiving. Our older daughter will not be home. One sister is traveling. Another sister lives very far away and is working to get her own brood together for the holiday, and my brother and his wife will be with her family this year. But we will have a very nice assortment spanning three generations all at the same table, since one daughter will be home with a friend, one sister is coming with her family, my nephew, niece and her boyfriend will join us, and mom will make the short trip as well. So our crew is a little short this year. Never the less, we will serve dinner for thirteen people.
Thirteen people. Now, I am not superstitious, and happen to believe that any number of people can create a festive holiday event. But thirteen is only slightly awkward.
We do not own thirteen matching plates. We have eleven in one set (there used to be twelve but one broke), seven in another set, and ten in my grandmothers old china that I rarely put on the table for fear that more of it will break. So the dishware will not match.
All of our children have long since outgrown a “kids table.” Sometimes, they not so secretly enjoy eating at a kids table still, since it gives all of the cousins a chance to connect without having any of the grownups within close listening range. But we will not do a kids table this year. We will put our regular table end-to-end with a drop-leaf table that normally stands in the living room, drape a couple of matching tablecloths over them, and pull up as many chairs as we can.
The chairs will not match. We have six regular dining chairs, a set of antique end chairs always on standby, and a slew of folding chairs from two different sets that won’t match, either. Oh well. At least we’ll have space for people to sit down to eat, even if it will be a bit tight.
We do actually have matching silverware for as many as twenty people, thanks to my sister who lives far away. It turns out that my sisters and I, though we have very different perspectives on things too numerous to mention, sometimes exhibit very similar taste, possibly even identical. When my husband and I got married we had a small wedding and did not register for gifts like fine crystal stemware or silverware. But later on, after we had been married for several years, we found some simple and lovely silver plated flatware on sale and bought it. My sister later got married and did the whole gift registry thing, and chose the SAME silverware. We were both blissfully unaware of this, until she spent one holiday with us and saw our good silverware in use. A few years later, she inherited some flatware from her husband’s side of the family, and gifted me her entire set. I think of her fondly every time I open that silver chest and polish the silverware.
The centerpiece will be some supermarket flowers I arranged into a container, and a couple of votive candles in mason jars. As for finery, I am confident my nephew will wear his usual jeans and baggy shirt, and I’ll try to throw on some decent slacks and a nice sweater once the major kitchen work is behind me.
But here’s the great news: vision for a lovely table or not, we will have family and some friends together. Our family has much for which to be thankful this holiday. We will express our gratitude for the food we consume. We will share some good wine and good conversation. And before the young people run off to do something else, they will have experienced once again what it means to be a family and to break bread together.
I wish you and your families a very Happy Thanksgiving!