November 19, 2020
It was with joy and sadness, that I took our Thanksgiving Table Treasure out of the linen closet this week. Joy, because the tablecloth, seen pictured here, represents years of family history and it makes me smile. The sadness I felt was the reality that it will not go on our fully extended dining room table this year. In fact, at this writing our family is not sure of our plans.
For 17 years this cloth has been a center piece of our Thanksgiving gathering. Each year at the conclusion of the meal all around the table, whatever their age, sign with a permanent marker and a few words of thanksgiving. Rarely has the table seated only family members. It is our custom to share the day with those with no family in town, those far from a foreign home, those with a special place in our hearts. Africa, Asia and Europe are all represented. The group is different each year.
As I studied the messages anew this week, I found it to be a surprising and unlikely document of family history. The messages found in a different color by year, are pictures and words made by tiny hands, growing hands and elders. The messages are both eloquent and fun in their expressions of thanks. They are words that capture "the ties that bind." They speak of love and strength of family, babies born, sports played, competitions waged (for best caramel made for the day, a long standing tradition between Jack, and our sons, Doug and Steve), diagnoses grieved, Legos loved, sleepovers enjoyed, friends treasured, neighbors invited, church events recognized, a boyfriend added, grandchildren growing, graduations celebrated, old and new jobs held. One particularly poignant and humbling message from a small boy from an African nation, who was in attendance with his father, stated simply, "I am thankful for water and food." An extended table has much to teach.
The tablecloth always inspires remembering the stories that make us who we are and what we value. We will rely upon stories and memories this year when we will not set the usual table, a year when all over the country, chairs will be empty and hearts broken. I am confident, though, that in November of 2021 we will be Re-Membering.
The opposite of Re-Membering is not forgetting. It is the act of coming apart, being broken or separated-dismembered. There is an ancient definition of Re-Membering that is understood to mean putting things back together, re-joining the members of what has been broken or separated. We will get there.
One of our neighbors has had a sign on their lawn for 8 months which says, "Everything will be OK." These people, like us, believe God is in our midst, giving us strength and helping us to Re-Member, come together, heal what is broken. Is that not also what our church helps us do? It has been said that "The shortest distance between two people is a story." So for this year we will remember and share stories in any way we can, we will live stories of uncertainty,disappointment, resilience, endurance, creativity, sadness, struggle, and hope and next year as we Re-Member, our tablecloth document of family history will hold messages that express a deeper, more profound thanksgiving.