The time of year where the United States reflects and remember the pilgrims. At least that's how I recall the holiday...as a little girl, a long time ago. There were the arts and crafts that children made prior to the big day, plays involving Indians and pilgrims sitting down to a holiday meal and giving thanks for all things good. I suspect that today's feast of gluttony is a far cry from what actually was served on the plates 200 years ago.
The items on my child hood plate were always tasty. I loved my mother's turkey gravy, homemade dinner rolls, peas, pumpkin pie and of course turkey. Mother was once, a long time ago, a home economist, and so we were treated to well balanced meals, always vibrant in color. There were the perfect amounts of salt and pepper on the dishes, and it was a time to be able to set the dining room table with fine china, silver, and Waterford glasses and goblets. There was one small butter plate and another plate with margarine. My Dad would sit at one end of the table and my mother at the other; although mother was constantly running around to make sure the dinner ran smoothly.
There was always a "Kids table". For a while there we actually had 2 kids' tables. If memory serves me correctly, there was a small, orange folding table, with 4 smart little chairs that my siblings and I were assigned to. It would be stationed in the marble foyer. Then there was the bridge table for teens. They were in the living room. Then there was the large, expansive dining room table where grown-ups sat. The location of all three tables allowed for all to be part of the big feast, and yet be entities in and of themselves. The layout of my parents' house allowed the layout, as each room was not separated by a wall, but rather some funky 60s style lattice work. Only the kitchen had a door way...thus food was brought out from the kitchen, in to the dining room, and then funneled out to the other tables.
The kids' table is a real slice of Americana. Who actually started the habit of casting off the kids to a small table? And why does this tradition continue still? Were we being punished for being small, or was it because kids have a natural tendency to spill, or because we finish eating more quickly than adults? I really could never figure it out. I do remember that at our kids' table, the china was the every day plate, and we did not have the luxury of 3 forks, 2 spoons, knives, tea cups, etc. We got the dull, blade-less knives, or even worse, our plate was delivered to us with everything already cut up. I made it a point to mix everything together, into one large potato, pea, dark meat ball. Things just had more of a culinary appeal if they were together.
As you got older, maybe even passed the puberty threshold, you were then graduated, like a commencement exercise, into the living room, where there was carpet, a real linen table cloth, knives that cut meat, and even 3 forks. You still had to go into the dining room, or kitchen to get your food, but you were a step closer to the grown-up table. While still within earshot of the adult table, you and the fellow teens were able to discuss more heady topics, like trying not to get caught sipping wine, or ditching school, or how we would sneak out of the house after dinner and visit other teens. One step up from the innocence of the kids' table, but half way to the adults table, where no doubt major topics were being discussed.
Finally, after what seemed an eternity, you graduated to the ADULT TABLE. The table with candles, 3 forks, 3 spoons, 2 knives, 2 goblets, 3 plates, and not enough elbow room. You were either lucky enough to sit next to one of the dinner guests, wedged in the middle and out of arm shot of a parent, or drew the short straw and were sitting on an end. Being a left handed person, I drew only 2 spots on a dining room rectangle. I'd get the right of my Mom or Dad. I search my memory to even remember if there was another left handed person in our group, but I think I was solo.
We had dinner with the same group of "family" every year. Jim and Ruth Dolan, who were like our auntie and uncle. Some years there were more Dolans. As those Dolans got married, moved, etc. there might be more Gartlans. Periodically my Mother would have other people for supper. Then, after a few more years, more Dolans would come; with new kids to fill the almost vacant kids' table. It was like a rites of passage. Kids' table, to teen table to adult table.
By the time I got to the adults' table, I began to come to the realization that grown-ups did not really discuss anything of great importance, nor was it especially entertaining. Our family dynamic does not allow us the luxury of getting together any longer during the holidays, as we live in different states, and really, if truth be told, we do not get along very well.
Somehow the kids' table was really the best place to be after all.