Tablecloth tradition records Thanksgiving dinners

Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom from Want,” the famous painting of an ideal American family sitting at the dinner table on Thanksgiving Day, is just that, an ideal. Real family holidays are seldom perfect, but they are filled with unique family traditions worth keeping, as one Rockdale Medical Center nurse has learned.

About eight years ago, Tracy Rose had the idea to take out a white tablecloth, hand out some colored Sharpie markers and ask everyone to record their thoughts on Thanksgiving Day.

“Most of our family is out of town, so Thanksgiving would be just our immediate family, my husband [Randy], our two daughters and friends,” said Rose, RNC, night charge nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Rockdale Medical Center in Conyers. “The rule was that people who came to dinner or for dessert afterward had to sign their names, date it and write something they were thankful for.”

The writing has completely filled the first tablecloth and the family is now working on a second one.

The entries aren’t always in the Norman Rockwell vein.

“I usually write something nice about that year, but my two girls, Amber [28] and Brandy [21] would try to outdo each other, in some cases to see who could be the funniest or the nastiest,” Rose said.

The tablecloth is full of sister barbs, inside jokes, signatures of boyfriends who have come and gone, messages from family pets (written by their owners) and pictures of turkeys, cats or smiley faces.

“It’s a free-for-all, running record of who was in our lives and what was going on each year,” Rose said. “It only comes out on Thanksgiving Day and we don’t eat on it, so it stays clean. We all enjoy looking back and saying, 'Remember, when you wrote that, or did this?’ ”

For the Rose family, the tradition is here to stay.

“One year, I forgot to bring it out and the girls reminded me,” she said.