How do you seat 20 guests at a table that holds only eight? That’s a puzzle I work on every year when Thanksgiving rolls around. You’d think by now I could solve it. But try as I might, the pieces never quite fit.
Sometimes, I use folding tables, snaking them from the dining room through the living room with six to eight guests at each table. That way everybody gets enough elbow room to eat and talk and breathe.
The only problem with it is I can’t see everyone’s face. I don’t eavesdrop on conversations. Unless I’m in earshot. But I love to watch their faces. The smiles. The laughs. Even the frowns when they bite into something that doesn’t taste like anything they’d ever want to eat.
It would be such a pleasure to see all those faces looking back at me. But I’d need a dining room as big as a gym and a table as long as a landing strip.
As problems go, it’s a good one. It’s a gift, absolutely, to have more loved ones than chairs. But when we sit down to eat, I still want to see their faces.
The good news is I’m the only one who ever seems to care. Everybody else just crowds in as best they can, joins hands to give thanks, eats whatever is offered, goes back for seconds and leaves happy and stuffed.
That’s my definition of a good meal and a great time. It’s even better if I don’t knock myself out to make it happen. (I like my chiropractor, but I’d rather not spend the Christmas holidays face down on his table.)
So recently, as I stood in our dining room trying to picture 20 people at an eight-person table, my husband walked in, gave me a quick look and without even trying, read my mind.
He does that a lot. It’s scary.
“I have an idea,” he said.
“What?” I said, rolling my eyes. “You want both sweet potato AND pumpkin pie?”
“Yes,” he said. “But for dinner, I think we should all go out.”
A crow cackled on the porch.
“Go out?” I said. “You mean, like, to a restaurant? Where somebody who is not me does all the shopping and prepping and cooking and cleaning and chiropractic appointments?”
He grinned and walked away.
I ran after him like a hound on a rabbit. And that’s how we decided to host this year’s Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant, followed by an after-dinner party at our house.
We made reservations at a place with a menu that offers something for everyone, even for our crew with their different tastes and eating styles.
OK, I know what you’re thinking. You’re right. It won’t be cheap. But if you add up what we’d spend to eat at home, along with my potential chiropractic bills, we might come out ahead.
The only catch is I’ll still need to do a small turkey and some stuffing and a few pies (sweet potato AND pumpkin) to have leftovers. It wouldn’t seem like Thanksgiving without them.
Some things change, but others stay the same. This year, we’ll share Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant. But we’ll all be together, sitting close enough, I hope, for me to see everyone’s face. And a good time will be had by all. Especially by me.
As always, I’ll set a table in my heart for friends and loved ones, living or long departed, who’ll be with us in spirit only.
I’ll save a place for you at that table. Maybe you’ll save one for me? I’ll say a prayer for the thousands of souls who have lost loved ones and homes and hopes and dreams to storms and floods and fires.
And I will give thanks for a great many blessings: For family and friends; for the gift of life and the chance to wake up each day to see what happens next; for readers who say my stories are their stories, too; and for a husband who reads my mind.
Here’s wishing you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving. May you have all you need and share it with others. And may you see all the faces you love.
– Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove CA 93950 or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.