When I was a child, setting the table for Thanksgiving dinner was my job. I polished the silver, ironed the napkins, and washed and dried the crystal glasses. I was like a 10-year-old Martha Stewart, I was so meticulous.
With my mom's guidance, I would set the table the night before Thanksgiving so it was all done and looking beautifully inviting by the time our guests arrived.
First I would Pledge the whole table until its lemony scent permeated the entire house. Then the big, white table cloth went on. It was made in Italy especially to accomodate the dimensions of our large, round table.
Then the plates would be laid out. Most often we used the Italian china that my mom received when she married my dad, the china that I use today. I love this china because it comes with pasta plates and several different antipasti dishes—pieces that are a normal part of an Italian china service, but are usually not included in fine china available in the States. I'd use the plates as my guide to determine where the sterling silverware would go.
Folded napkins would go to the left of the plate and on top of that a shiny fork. To the right of the plate went a heavy silver knife and soup spoon. We always set our dessert fork and coffee spoon on the table above the plate, with forks pointing one way and spoons pointing the other.
Crystal wine and water glasses would go above the knife and spoon to the right of the plate. Then, all the serving dishes and utensils would go on top of the table waiting to be filled with deliciousness.
I loved sitting around that big round table as a child. It was reserved for special occassions. Holidays meant that not only could we sit with adults, but we also got our own very tiny glasses of champagne.
I have vivid memories of setting holiday tables as a child. If I close my eyes, I can almost see my little self arranging chairs just so and making sure forks were straight. I took so much pride in what I was doing because I was entrusted with such an important job.
I am thankful for a mother who taught me these things, even though most nights our dining table looks like a cafeteria food fight post-mortem. My eldest daughter is four-years-old and she's just now starting to want to set the table. I'm showing her where forks go, and where knives and, like our dining room table, the circle goes round.
[photo of my silver gravy boat: Stefania Pomponi Butler]