Thanksgiving, like most every holiday, is an event steeped in tradition.
The main difference between turkey day and the rest of the gatherings is the fact that Thanksgiving festivities are completely centered on your dining table. While you and yours surely have a roundup of tried-and-true entrées, desserts, and after-dinner activities, have you considered adding something new to the mix?
This Missouri mother came up with a fantastically sweet and fun tradition over a decade and a half ago. Here’s how her signature-covered Thanksgiving tablecloth came to be.
The Year Was 2000
Many years have passed since Deb Mills of Clinton, Missouri came up with a new idea to make the November holiday more exciting and memorable.
“We are a blended family,” she explained to ABC, “and we set out to make some very special family traditions that are all our own.”
“Back in 2000, I got out this plain white tablecloth and put it on the table,” she remembers. “My teenage kids looked at me like I was crazy when I said, ‘I want you to sign this tablecloth.’”
In the years that followed, Deb’s family soon grew to include grandchildren as well. She continued to store the tablecloth and bring it out each and every year. “Now,” she says, “we have 16 years of memories on the tablecloth.”
Dining Table Traditions
Today, Deb’s extended family includes plenty of youngsters who haven’t even known a family Thanksgiving without the tradition. There’s also some rhyme and reason to it, she explains. Every year, the family uses one single colored pen, which helps add to the decoration’s time capsule feel.
“Each year is done in a different color, and along the edge, I have the color code. For 2015 we have royal blue because the Royals won the World Series.”
Once the holiday is over, the tablecloth isn’t packed up, either. It makes its annual appearance and then stays out through the end of the year.
“I hand embroider it through the winter months,” Deb says. “That makes it much more durable.”
More Than Words
Also illustrated on the storybook tablecloth are footprints of new babies, as well as graduation caps, all to commemorate the different milestones that the family celebrated in a given year.
There are also a few memories that, well… let’s just say they’re glossed over.
“When the kids were younger,” Deb recalls, “they would say, ‘If we invite so-and-so and we break up, then what?’” (Yikes.) “That has happened,” she says, “but we have gravy boats strategically placed for just that reason.”
In Loving Memory
One extremely special signature is that of Mary, Deb’s daughter who died suddenly after suffering an aneurysm at only 44 years old.
“It is very special to be able to put that tablecloth on the table each Thanksgiving,” Deb says, “and there is Mary’s name, and she’s among us… as well as my mother and my husband’s father.”
“Those three signatures are irreplaceable to us at this point,” she says, “and I’m sure that tablecloth is irreplaceable to our four remaining kids and 10 grandkids… and anybody else that has sat at our table.”
“The most important thing is we have the names, the signatures of those that have been dear to us through the years that are no longer with us,” Deb told ABC as her eyes began to fill with tears.
If You’re Trying This Tradition…
…you won’t be alone. Several of Deb’s friends decided to follow in her footsteps and begin their own Thanksgiving tablecloth traditions.
“It’s just a little special tablecloth,” she said to ABC. “It’s no big deal, but people are now planning on starting it this Thanksgiving.”
That being said, it really is a big deal. Traditions have to begin somewhere, and this tablecloth will soon be decades old. As this grandmother’s family continues to grow, they’ll be able to turn to the embroidered keepsake as a family tree of sorts.
She’s paying it forward as well. “These are younger girls,” she explained, “and I’ll have them over to show them how to embroider it for years to come.”
Counting Up The Blessings
“We are so blessed with such a great family,” Deb says. “Families are of extreme importance, and making memories and traditions that carry on to the next generation are so irreplaceable.”
Happy holidays to you and yours.