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Perspective: The gift of setting the Thanksgiving table

Jill Wellington

I have always loved to set the table.

There is something about the placing of silverware, plates, napkins, and on special occasions, candles and a centerpiece, that brings me joy. And this has never been truer than at Thanksgiving.

Ours is a long vintage table found decades ago at a garage sale, and it has served us well over the years. With six leaves, it extends outward like a dock on a lake, seating as many as 16 if necessary.

Yet because of the pandemic, it has been almost 48 months since our family has gathered round it. Through Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, Easter, and other special occasions, our table has sat forlorn and empty like a wallflower at a dance with no partners in sight.

Due to covid vaccines and boosters, however, our family finally feels protected enough to gather once again, and so I can’t wait to set the table. There is the spreading of my grandmother’s antique linen tablecloth that has survived the test of time against gravy stains and cranberry sauce. There are the matching napkins to be ironed, the old silver to polish, the autumn plates to be placed just so.

But mainly, I love to set the table because the anticipation of those who are coming to sit around it brings me so much happiness. Not only will there be the beloved faces that I long to see, but there will also be the spirit of those who have graced our table in times gone by. So, as we come through this pandemic storm together and gratefully gather again, the simple gift of setting the table makes my heart overflow with thanksgiving.

Bring on the cranberry sauce!

Marnie O. Mamminga has been a professional essayist and features writer for more than 20 years.