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Setting for Twelve

…by Julie Clark Robinson
“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,\’ that would suffice.”
 — Meister Eckhart

Choosing a china pattern with my fiancé all those years ago wasn\’t
quite the love fest a young girl dreams about all her life, but it has
lead to something quite lovely.

There were a few things I became quickly aware of that summer evening
in Marshall Fields. One was that the rolling of my betrothed\’s eyes
(when he thought I wasn\’t looking) meant that such decisions were to be
mine from that point forward. The second thing I realized was that this
particular decision was far more than just one of color or brand or
pattern. It was the beginning of a tradition.

Once I fell in love with the simplicity of my German “Baroness White”
service for twelve, I knew I had to do more than just serve
Thanksgiving meals on it. I felt an overwhelming desire to let these
delicate serving pieces tell the tale of our new family to the next

Just four weeks after our wedding, Thanksgiving was in the air. I was
so excited to be having my mother and stepfather visiting from Toledo
to share the meal with us. I shopped and chopped, cooked and baked and
finally it was time to work on my favorite thing, Part I — setting the
dining room table. But thanks to my beautiful china, I now have a
favorite thing, Part II. After the belts have been loosened and the
kitchen cleaned up, and usually long after everyone has scattered off
in their own direction (in other words, football…), I sit in that empty
dining room and record the day in my China Journal.

It\’s not the last chore of the day, far from it. I look at it as if
it\’s a legacy of sorts. I imagine my daughter one day (and her
children, after her), leafing through the pages and feeling connected
to her past…dare I hope…to me. I imagine her laughing with joy as she
reads my menu and discovers that we both make deviled eggs for most
holidays. She\’ll probably chaff when she reads that for the first few
years I didn\’t grace her or her brother\’s place at the table with the
Baroness White, but with Barney Purple instead.

If she looks closely at the pictures that I tuck in with each entry,
she might see how tired I look or how I didn\’t take the time to put on
lipstick or comb my hair before posing with the spread of food. But in
time she\’ll learn that when preparing a holiday meal there just isn\’t
time for such things. Then maybe she\’ll look a bit closer and see the
joy in my eyes nonetheless.

I hope that both my kids, as adults, read through the pages and see how
many people we were blessed with throughout the years. Maybe they\’ll
even be so busy counting names that they\’ll skim over the quantities of
wine that were consumed around that table. A mom can dream, can\’t she?

I realize that I\’m putting a big burden on something as frail as
porcelain. I\’m asking it to reflect love, tradition and a genuine
appreciation for all of our blessings for years to come, long after I\’m
no longer here to represent it myself.

My first entry from all those years ago says it best.

“I know they\’re just porcelain pieces to eat from, but to me,
 they\’re the beginning of a family. I can almost picture all of
 the gatherings through the years. Some good, some not so
 good, as life will have it. But each gathering will have one
 thing in common – whether David and I are a part of the meal
 or not. The commitment to love, family, good food and a
 great life together.”

Action Exercise:
Before you dig into menu planning and silver polishing, give some
serious thought to your Thanksgiving traditions. Ask yourself, “Is
there anything different I can do to add true meaning for myself as
well as my family?” Things like less time at the stove; more time
watching a parade with children, having a leftover turkey recipe
contest or just carving out a few moments to appreciate what\’s right
under your nose – today — might take what\’s a usually a pretty great
day and make it something to build on for years to come.

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