Be my guest

Thanksgiving dinner in Fayetteville, Arkansas

Your fingers tear along the seal of an envelope and pull out a card decorated with tiny autumn leaves and looping cursive handwriting. “You’re invited to…” Carol’s 5th birthday party, Andrew’s bar mitzvah, the Randall’s Thanksgiving dinner. The letter beckons you to “be our guest,” to put our service to the test – like a dinner scene from Beauty and the Beast … minus the dancing plates and silverware. The idea is that you’re invited. Someone wants you to be part of their celebration.

For the past four years, I’ve always been the one invited to Thanksgiving dinner. It feels wonderful to be asked to share such a special holiday with people that I care about, but I’m looking forward to the day when I will be the one asking friends and family to my place and eat around my table. At the risk of sounding sappy, there’s just something special about opening up your space as home-base for the holidays. It’s your turn to give back to those who have offered their homes to you over the years, your chance to treat them to something that shows your thankfulness and care.

This Thanksgiving, my cousin Collier, along with his wife, Julie, invited me and 27 other family members to their beautiful, spacious home in northwest Arkansas. I walked up to their doorway armed with a silver serving dish full of sweet potato casserole and my pancetta Brussels sprouts. When Collier opened the door, my gaze instantly floated to the table, mesmerised by the plates and chargers arranged around a Christmas centerpiece. Red and white tool was woven with green garland, strung from the balcony that overlooked the bustling kitchen, filled with Thanksgiving dishes. Their house smelled like cinnamon and sage, evidence of the stuffing, turkey and pies that were waiting to be devoured by hungry guests. While I was excited to be part of the celebration, I couldn’t help but think what Collier and Julie must have felt like, having all this merriment that was about to take place in their home.

The whole afternoon, we mingled, munched and marveled at the feast that everyone had so thoughtfully prepared. Collier and Julie hosted us to a meal where we could relax, enjoy and catch up with those who we haven’t seen in months, and in my case, years! Their house encapsulated a moment of family togetherness that I will always associate with this holiday. Their graciousness to provide their family table as the place for this lively, quirky bunch to gather, allowed me to experience the magic of a big family, something that I always think about and am now starting to feel apart of.

Yes, it feels great to be the one who’s invited, but to offer your home as the place of togetherness – that’s where the heart of the family table truly subsides.

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