Preparing for Thanksgiving has always been more of a chore than the meal is worth for me. I am usually the planner, preparer, chef, and chief cleaner upper. Thankfully a few years back, my dear husband stepped in and took over the task of storing leftovers and "retting" up the kitchen. Even the gathering of family is not enough to make this a holiday a time I can look forward to. All the jokes about sitting down with people you usually tolerate throughout the rest of the year and then purposely sit next to on the fourth Thursday in the month of November has roots in the truth. The past couple of years I have actually been thrilled when I found out that my kids had other plans. I was able to sit in my pj's all day and eat whatever I liked.....holiday turkey be damned. But this Thanksgiving I am going to give it the old college try and do my best to turn it around.
I am not the kind of woman who really uses china or formal dinner pieces, but I pulled out the Noritake china I bought for my hope chest when I was 16 years old and living in Taiwan. The pattern is called Reina and is a white on white pattern with silver edging. It doesn't get much use and really never has during the years since it was purchased. I also found the silver my mother bought in Hong Kong during a trip we took there for my 16th birthday. Because of my father's rank in the military and protocol for the time we lived in Taiwan, there were dinner parties every few weeks that required me to learn how to set a formal dinner table where china and silver were regularly on display.
The silver I pulled out from under the stairwell was in a sad state. Since my mothers death 18 years ago, I have never used it. In fact it was still wrapped in the tissue paper and soft cloths that she bought to protect it all. I bought Tarn-x and gathered the soft fabric I needed for the cleaning and set out to restore it to its former beauty. Some of the pieces are permanently discolored and a few had deep pitting, but most of the pieces responded to the gentle care and cleaning by displaying the beautiful shine I remember from my youth. It took several hours to clean and buff the silver and I wondered how many people actually do this anymore. It wasn't hard work, but it was tedious and time consuming. Wouldn't my regular day to day dinnerware be just as good? The answer is yes, but perhaps setting aside a few days a year to put some extra care and special attention to the day could remind me and those who will enjoy it to put their best foot forward and take some care to show up with shining attitudes and smiles.
I am aware that none of this is needed for a special connection over dinner. After spending the day with my oldest daughter cooking an early Thanksgiving celebration dinner just two weeks ago, we ate on her everyday dishes in her kitchen. Her table is a large coffee table and our seats were pillows on the floor. It was delightful and there was nothing formal about the gathering.
Cleaning the silver with its permanently discolored spots and wearing away by time and exposure to the elements was an act of reverence for me. It connected me with my mother again and became a hope for me to connect with those who will sit at my table this year. It also reminded me that to neglect something treasured and beautiful takes its toll on the treasure and the one called to restore it. I hope that I find the buried treasure of laughter, gentle conversation and extended olive branches surrounding us as we count our blessings and partake in the bounty we have been given in food and one another.