Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Growing up, we’d go to Dallas to be with my dad’s brother and his family. Their aunt and cousin from Atlanta would fly in for the holiday and it was a formal affair. My sister and I not only wore dresses, but we had to wear slips and hose as well. That’s very confining for a 10-year-old.
My aunt would set an elaborate table with approximately 17 forks at each place setting. (I only used one.) Everyone had a water glass, a tea glass and a wine glass. Everyone. (I only drank water because I was a child, not because I didn’t try.) The napkins were linen and didn’t have designs stamped into them. The placemats were not plastic and didn’t contain cartoon characters. And—get this—everything matched.
Every family ages and this was no different in my family. Uncles and fathers pass away. Aunts and mothers grow older. Kids grow up, go to college, get jobs, move away, get married, have their own kids and start their own traditions.
Now, we go to my husband’s family’s house for Thanksgiving. When everyone shows up, there are approximately ninety-eleven-hundred of us. My mother-in-law is a smart woman. She sets out the Chinet platters and the plastic ware. This is my kinda spread. More times than not, at home for everyday occasions and fancy occasions alike, we use disposable meal service items. Partly because I’m a tired momma and I know most of the clean up will fall to me. Mostly, though, it’s convenient.
I beg Mother Earth’s forgiveness with each bag of trash I take out.
Occasionally, though, I long for the days of my youth. I long for the fancy-schmancy dinner were we break out the good china and the real silverware and the glass glasses and the linen placemats (but not the linen napkins because I don’t have that much fancy running in my blood).
So, it was just last year when I decided I would teach our daughters how to make a Thanksgiving dinner … a week early. I would teach them about the place setting and about balanced eating and about making mashed potatoes out of actual potatoes and not flakes.
We went shopping for the turkey and we bought cornmeal to make cornbread for the dressing. We were doing everything as authentically as possible. With our menu set and our groceries in the fridge, we made our cooking schedule. The weekend was spent preparing for our feast. Sunday, after church, we set about cooking and preparing. By 7 p.m., we were ready to set the table. A glorious, formal meal awaited.
The girls selected the placemats and set them around the table. They decided to serve the meal buffet-style so the centerpiece of pumpkins and mums could remain on the table. They YouTubed how to fold a napkin into a great shape. (This was probably the most stressful part of the whole ordeal.)
Then, at the last minute, we opened the flatware drawer to set the table for our family: One mom, one dad, two daughters and one Nana.
“I’ll grab the knives!” my younger daughter said and noisily scooped up the utensils.
“We won’t need eight knives,” I explained, thinking of our eight-setting silverware that my husband’s grandmother had given us when we were married.
“Good,” she said. “We only have three.”
Three? Ummm … wait. Three taken from eight means that we had five knives that were missing. I checked the sink. There were knives a plenty thanks to all the dicing, slicing and cutting we’d done in preparation, but not any that were table knives. I opened the dishwasher. There was one solitary serving spoon in the silverware basket.
I spun to look at the girls. “Okay,” I sighed, “No biggie. Just set them beside the butter. We’ll share.”
“We only have four forks,” my older daughter said.
“Well don’t use the salad forks. Everyone just gets one fork.”
“No,” she further explained, “Four forks total.”
I slowly spun in the kitchen, taking in all the possibilities, thinking that maybe they might appear from nowhere. Maybe, like in a Harry Potter film, they’d float in as needed.
“Where could the utensils be?” I said. Then remembering when the girls were preschoolers and not teenagers, I questioned them. “Have you been digging outside in the dirt with our silverware?”
They shook their heads, but slowly backed out of the kitchen, retreating where I knew not.
I grabbed the baggie of leftover party utensils. Some green forks, some blue spoons, a few clear knives. I dispatched them to their respective and rightful places at the table as the girls returned to the kitchen, their hands full of bowls, cups and copious amounts of silverware. My glistening flatware retrieved from the rooms of hungry teenagers.
Clearly, fancy is lost on this generation. And, my dishwasher hands aren’t that sad about it at all.
Heather Davis is an Oklahoma momma & a writer. You can contact her through her website, www.Heather-Davis.net.