Each year as Thanksgiving Day rolls around, I spend some time thinking about how I will want the dinner table to look. I enjoy having the chance to treat my family with party favors and special decorations. After all, I am thankful to have them gathered around me, and this is my way of showing them how much they mean to me. The dinner table is just the right setting to nurture and care for the ones I love.
Which got me thinking about tables. The table is, by its very nature, a gathering place. But it’s much more than that. The table is the center for sharing and learning, and of course, eating. It is a place for thinking and relaxing, lounging with a good book over a leisurely breakfast. Sometimes the table brings us together for comfort, other times to argue. My earliest memories at the table are of times spent eating breakfast in the kitchen with my siblings. Our mom would lead us in the morning prayer and then give us a good breakfast to start the day. At the breakfast table we knew that we were loved and cared for, and that we could start the day feeling secure and confident.
In our home, the kitchen table was also a place for creativity and challenge. It was the place to do homework and receive help with homework. It was the place to study spelling words and struggle with times tables. I remember one time when my dad labored to teach me math. I just wasn’t getting it and we were both so frustrated. I remember being in tears. I thought he was frustrated with me, but now I realize that he was probably frustrated with himself, too, because he didn’t know how to make clear to me what came so easily to him. For spelling homework, my mom was my go-to person. Even though English was her second language, Mom proved to me that she knew English almost as well as she commanded her native French. Testing my spelling abilities at the kitchen table, I have a pretty good idea now that we were learning to spell in English together.
When we weren’t doing homework at the table, there was a pretty good chance that we were creating something. Dad brought home lots of paper for us to draw and color, and Mom showed us how to make all kinds of things out of paper. We really loved designing paper crowns to wear. Mom gave us ideas for shaping our tiaras and adding jewels. We had fun coloring the gemstones and pretending that we were royalty. Another fun thing to do was to help Mom make cookies at the table. As we got older, my sisters and I enjoyed making cookies on our own. Our brother enjoyed eating them.
Sunday morning was a good time to be around the table. The tradition after Sunday Mass was to pick up fresh bakery bread and doughnuts. Sitting at the table on a Sunday was a treat. That bread always tasted so delicious, and there was no hurry to rush off to go anywhere or do anything. Sundays were for lingering at the table before poring over the Sunday comics. Our traditional Sunday brunch has changed over the years, and now some of us meet for a bite at a local restaurant. While it’s not quite the same, the important thing is that we come together to linger for a while and enjoy the company of each other.
Which brings me back to the Thanksgiving table that my family and extended family will be sitting around tomorrow. We will come together, four generations, sharing much more than a meal. We will thoughtfully gather to give thanks for the many blessings we have received, and to let each one know how much he or she is loved and appreciated. We will think of loved ones who cannot join us, and remember those who are no longer with us. And I will think about the each one who has touched me in some way, coming together at the table. Tomorrow, my Thanksgiving table will be a place of celebration and joy that will be decorated by the loved ones who sit around it. And it will truly be a thing of beauty.