In 1978, my grandparents, Warren and Frances Ashen, started a holiday tradition that I keep very close to my heart.
Each time all of us would gather for a major holiday meal we would sign a white double-sized flat sheet. We could draw on it, write our names on it — whatever we wanted.
”I read about it in a magazine and it sounded good,” my grandma told me recently.
As a child, I remember eagerly waiting for the markers to be placed on the table. First, I had to find what I wrote the year previously because this was really important stuff! Next, I had to decide what I was writing or drawing that year.
Most years, since I was so young, I drew a picture and stated my age. In 1982 (I was born in 1976), I wrote my name and “I’m 6” accompanied by a Glo-worm looking person with a happy, smiling face. If you don’t remember what a Glo-worm looked like (or if you don’t remember it at all), Google it — it was a toy introduced in 1982 and perhaps the inspiration for my drawings.
In 1986, I was 10 and I drew a Christmas tree and another Glo-worm-looking person (but this time it had feet). FYI, I don’t pretend that I was ever (nor ever will be) the artist in the family.
In 1987, I was 11. Finally, the person I drew resembled a person (well, sort of because she had red arms and legs and green feet). I also drew some stars, another Christmas tree and used a few different colored markers. I even included “I love mom and you (though I’m not sure who the ‘you’ was)” in my drawing that year.
Last week, I spoke to a few family members about their memories of the tablecloth.
My mom said she used to love to watch us kids draw and color on the tablecloth as the smells of the holiday meal cooking made their way into the room.
My brother, Dalton, recalls how the tablecloth made him feel.
“The tablecloth gave me a feeling of something important, something grand,” my brother said. “A bond that’s unconditional. Then I had to sit at the kiddies’ table. LOL.”
Oh yes, I too, remember the kiddies’ table.
My cousin, Jamie, enjoyed looking back at all the years before.
“I remember looking at it every year and reading all the years before,” she said. “I remember looking forward to writing on it and the first time my kids wrote on it. It was a piece of us. Of our family history.”
The tablecloth preserves family memories, my grandma said.
“It is special,” she said. “It brings back wonderful memories of kids, grandkids and other relatives who all say how much they loved me and your grandpa especially from you young grandkids.”
My Aunt Gloria liked the idea so much that she started her own tablecloth with her children and grandchildren and has some advice for others wanting to do their own.
“I have been doing my holiday tablecloth for years,” she said. “If you do one, be sure to put a plastic tablecloth underneath it or the markers will go through onto your table. I know from experience. I take it out every year and look at all the signatures and drawings and greetings. It’s so great! Also love the scribbles of the little ones, and seeing how it changes as they grow!”
Those were precious times and it reminds me to not take anything — present or past — for granted. Each day is precious and as time goes on I realize how precious the previous day was. I like to remember it like this: “one day you’ll look back and realize how good today really was.”
Years later, as an adult, I look at the tablecloth every time I’m at my grandma’s house. It’s enough to choke me up. It is far more than a tablecloth — those are memories. Memories of laughter. Memories of love. I can almost smell the food, hear the sounds of family chatter and feel the love in the room.
From my family to yours, I hope everyone reading this has a beautiful holiday season.