I can't remember the year it began but our tradition started many Thanksgivings ago.
The original canvas was a brilliant white tablecloth which covered an extended leaf oval table in my mom & dad's dining room. Someone, one of my sisters I believe, explained that she had heard of a wonderful tradition and wanted our family to do it as well. Every Thanksgiving we pull out our rag tag collection of thin line colored sharpies. We have red, blue, green, black and brown but a few of the little hands in our family discovered other permanent markers in purple, gold, and silver. It's amazing that they still have ink. Young and old we take turns sitting at the table and writing down what we are thankful for that year. We drift in to the dining area and lean over the table. A few of us are watching the game or a parade on TV, or maybe working together outside completing a chore or buzzing around the kitchen preparing the big meal of the day. We might be helping a younger one with a drink or snack. We sit at the table and read the other family member's grateful words in hopes our own inspiration will come soon. Not that we don't have a lot to be thankful for, just finding the few words that capture an entire year's worth of gratitude. Someone comes in from outside carrying a load of kindling for the wood stove. The tablecloth waves when the breeze blows in and sweeps over the room. You might even hear the sing-song words "shut the door."
Our words are a beautiful patchwork of lovely feminine script, wobbled words from age and arthritis, block capital lettering from children and simple straight lines from men. We even have hand-drawn paw prints from parents who love their fur-babies like children. Chloe, Brody, Allie, Buddy and Sampson are just a few of them listed. The dogs are often grateful for crumbs, belly rubs and chew toys. We put a date beside our entries so we can see how the blessings change from year to year. Anyone who joins us at our Thanksgiving table is encouraged to write their own blessings. We're covered up with girls in our family so we've had boyfriends to come and go, hearts that change and relationships to begin and end. We've said painful goodbyes to several of our four-legged friends. Their paw prints remain on the table cloth just like they do our heart. But the feelings, good and bad make up the tapestry of our family's lives.
But there is one handwriting on the tablecloth that all of us look for. He hasn't written on it since 2011. Our fingers trace over his lines hoping to feel the author's presence again. He always wrote similar things - about how much he loved his family and how he was proud of all of us sitting here. That he loved he wife of nearly 60 years of wedded bliss with her and he wrote, "She is the best caregiver I could ever ask for." We miss you Daddy. D-Daddy. We miss you every day.
It's getting harder to find space to write on the tablecloth. It's like the most popular annual on the last day of school. We manage to find more precious real estate when we pull the sides of the tablecloth up on to the table to write, then let it fall off the side when we're done.
It's important that we get our gratitude words on the tablecloth. It's not just for the memories, but the generations to come, and we're able to capture a part of our family's history. It's our way of celebrating each other's blessings. We have so many, mostly because we have each other. The years aren't always easy. The troubles we face are sometimes hard to bear. The pain we pull through, leave scars. But we have each other and we stand together, or cry together, or make plans for our future together.
I thank God for our family and these are MY gratitude words. They just won't fit on the tablecloth.
Seeds to Share
1 Chronicles 16:34 - Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.