My family’s Thanksgiving feast changes each year as different faces grace the table. People move away, pass away, get married, and age, and squirrelly children become vibrant young adults. For as long as I can remember, my parents have welcomed and embraced anyone who walked through their front door. And each Thanksgiving I learn something new from the conversations that ping-pong across their carefully decorated table as we all search for common ground.
In my family, children have always been relegated to a Kids’ Table. When my sister and I were young, although it was a relief to be separated from the drudgery of adult conversation, we felt a little displaced. Yet when we graduated to the dining room, we quickly realized that we missed the hilarious and spirited conversation between our cousins and friends.
This year our grown kids and twentysomethings opted for the Kids’ Table—a table minus the wedding china, flickering candles, and decorations carefully placed along the backbone of a grand dining table. Throughout our Thanksgiving meal, I was drawn to their raucous laughter and loud voices as it filled my parents’ kitchen and spilled into the dining room. While we were reminiscing in nostalgia, our kids were full of joy and unbridled anticipation. Twin cousins talked of college—one dreaming of becoming an actor and one who will go to nursing school in the fall. My daughter talked of finishing college next year and her desire to work as a medical technician. My son, the chef, demonstrated his mad cooking skills by loading the others’ plates with the desserts he had made.
Later that night, when our bellies were full and the volume sedate, my mother asked me what I was thankful for.
“The Kids’ Table,” I said.
I showed her the picture I had taken with my phone. It was a photo of our grown children who were friends, sisters, brothers, and cousins, all crammed elbow to knee around a breakfast table. There was the brother who laughingly guzzled a bottle of sparkling cider on a dare and promptly threw up his turkey dinner. There was my daughter who fed our dog table scraps and my son who made himself a cheeseburger because he dislikes turkey. It was the secrets hinted at between the children and the daring conversation between lifelong friends. It was the sacredness of their common ground.
At the end of the night, my mom reminded us all to think each day about the things we are thankful for. So tonight, as I pulled the leftovers from the fridge, my heart was smiling at the memory of the Kids’ Table.
My heart is full,
Kristin Jarvis Adams is a public speaker and advocate for children with special needs, helping to bridge the gap between the outside world and the inner world of autism. Her speaking engagements have included: Seattle Festival of Trees Gala, a benefit for Seattle Children’s Hospital and The Seattle Children’s Autism Clinic. Learn More>>