We called her ‘Aunty’. My great aunt Thelma was my Dad’s aunt. She was widowed at the age of 27, never remarried, and lived to be 85. Aunty worked as one of Iowa’s first female bank officers starting in the 1930’s. She built her own home, had no children and made the best layered strawberry salad in town. We loved her endlessly.
Every holiday, Aunty would walk the three blocks to our home, head scarf covering her head, her heels clicking on the sidewalk. Her gloved hands gingerly carried her special strawberry salad, carefully covered in aluminum foil.
It was time for a family dinner. Aunty was always included.
Our enormous dining room table would be set with the finest china and silverware. A beautiful Thanksgiving tablecloth covered the table. Cloth napkins sat next to our best flatware. The Tice family bread was rising on the radiators. The smell of turkey & stuffing curled through the house. Dad’s chair was at the end of the table, facing the door. Mother’s chair was at the other end of the table. The fireplace was crackling.
The grand table was a significant departure from our regular family table. With four growing children, lots of friends around, home was a constant beehive of activity with hastily prepared meals on everyday melamine and paper napkins.
But Thanksgiving was the time to step it up a notch and bring out the best china and Grandma’s silver. Cloth napkins were washed and ironed. On rare occasions, we had a nice candle in the center of the table. Flowers from the late summer garden were showing off their skills in a mason jar filled with water.
As we busied ourselves with final preparation of the meal, Aunty gently reminded us, “Have you thought of something positive to share? Be thinking about it.”
Conversation at the Table
After sitting at the table, we joined hands and offered a prayer of thanksgiving. Once the food was passed, we took turns offering positive news from our own lives, then other family members could ask questions as the merry clink of china surrounded us.
The roundtable went something like this:
- What is something positive that has happened to you in the last few weeks? Tell us about it. Is there a way you have helped someone else (in the last few weeks)? Tell us about it.
- Be prepared to answer questions from family members:
- What did you do to get [an “A” on the test]?
- Was it hard?
- How did the teacher respond?
- No interruptions.
- Don’t talk with your mouth full.
- Use complete sentences.
Aunty regaled us with stories of Grandma & Grandpa and how they purchased the sterling—scrimping and saving. When the money was finally saved, they purchased an Heirloom Plate Dinner Service for 8, the exact number in their family. A tarnish-proof chest (made of cherry) was included at no cost. The year was 1939. Total cost: $48.65.
In today’s world, families are very busy. Time for a sit-down meal, even at holiday time, may seem overwhelming complicated or not worth the work.
But time together with family, if only once per year, is well worth it.
Create a New Tradition
Recommendations for your family:
- Carve out time to spend with your favorite people. If this is family, great. If this is friends, great. Surround yourself with people who support you.
- If you are alone, do something nice for yourself that is different and fun. Example: invite a friend over to watch a movie together.
- If your nuclear family is broken, don’t lose heart. Find other people with which to spend your time. After all, being genetically related doesn’t make you family. Love, support, honesty, acceptance, gratitude, respect and loyalty…are what make you family.
- Make the Thanksgiving dinner your own. Whether you want a small meal or a large meal, choose what will fit you the best. There are marvelous take out options as well as premade meals.
- Use your family linens & china. Children can be taught how to handle fine bone china and linen napkins. Invite the children to join in the conversation: share the family stories with your children. This is their legacy.
- Use good table manners.
Practice gratefulness as you celebrate your Thanksgiving holiday.
Wishing you the best Thanksgiving of all.
Remember: Share your goodness, far and wide, as much as you can, with as many people as you can, for as long as you can, with as much respect as you can.
Ready, Set…Time to Say Please and Thank You again.