|View from some previous Thanksgiving|
What is that?, I get asked frequently whenever I mention my “new”, now 3 years old, holiday tradition. The Serpentine Table (capital letters required) is how I bring together all strays, orphans, misfits and assorted others who need a place to go and people to be with for one reason or another on official holidays. What started as only a Thanksgiving thing, became Easter the following the year and we now are adding Christmas Day to the list.
I am rather short on traditional family for assorted reasons. With my kids grown up and parents growing older, we got rather bored with celebrating with just our little group that did not even need a leaf in the table. In the midst of casual conversations, it became apparent that couples in my parent’s age group, whom I have known for many years, were facing the phase where their children lived far away and were making plans of their own. These older folks would be alone. That broke my heart and made me realize that I really did have a big family, we just didn’t share any biology.
As the calendar passed, a core group formed, some who come every time, others who cancel their reservation but hold a spot for the next gathering. A standing list of invites exists, but I reach out each year to those who may be facing a sad or solo holiday. The recently divorced or newly separated, those with family far away or financially not in reach right now, those with an ill family member who can’t do the work themselves….whatever….I add another table and explain the “rules”.
Rule #1 – No separate tables hence the title of my event. I just connect one on to the other and zig-zag a bit. The standing joke is that someday we will wrap all the way through the front hall and back into the kitchen. First timers get a “good chair” and after that, it depends upon where I place you in the mix.
Rule #2 – We use the good stuff. The china, the crystal glasses, the silver flatware, the real linens, the fancy wedding present serving pieces….and transfer foods to real serving dishes (unless it is a crockpot), I’m not stupid. I polish and dust and iron and sparkle the stuff as best I can because why else do we have it all taking up closet space? Even candles get lit on everybody’s table, each decorated to the hilt. No one is shorted on feeling like their table is not the “main” one, all of them are the “grownup” tables. Your place settings are right out of Emily Post so if you don’t know what “that” fork is for, who cares, but it looks nice right?!
Rule #3 – Everybody brings a dish to feed the total number attending and you have to pre-sign up for what you want to make so we have a balanced meal. Updated numbers and menus are sent out weekly the month before.
Rule #4 – We accommodate all allergies and food preferences, but don’t subject them on anybody else. You wish to experiment with some new creation? Have at it!
Rule #5 – No cleaning up, getting up from the table early, texting or phones (unless on call for the hospital) and everybody has to talk to everybody else. I make a seating chart to keep the conversation going from one end to the other and putting newbies into the middle so they can be most comfortable.
Rule #6 – Nothing is precious. If it breaks, or spills, or falls flat etc…we laugh it off and move on. Life is too short to care.
Rule #7 – A window of time is provided to allow for early birds who socialize but don’t come so close to seating time that I trip over you. The bar (with anything you could possibly want) is open and coffee /tea/special liqueurs come with dessert.
Rule #8 – Dessert crashers, last minute change of minders, the suddenly orphaned and so forth are welcome at any time…I have plenty of dishes and we always seem to have enough food to feed an army. The door is open. Don’t ring the doorbell or bang on the glass…just walk in and say Hi!
Rule #9 – Laugh. Relax. Linger. Switch seats for dessert etc…I don’t care. This is my home, not a house or a museum. The mortgage pays for every square inch so let use it!
Rule #10 – Before leaving for the evening, you are welcome to confirm a reservation for the next official Table, hold a reservation, decline but hold the one after that, or just think we are all nuts and find something else to do. The years are slipping away fast for all of us. So what if we hear the same stories….
Oh, the most important rule of all….we pray before we begin. I give thanks for having a crazy assortment of misfit toys as my “family”.
Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!