Family Heirloom Tablecloth


When I became a mother, a wise woman with grown children said, “Remember, the days are long, but the years are short.” At the time, I did not understand what her words meant. As Thanksgiving and my daughter’s fifth birthday approach, the sentiment is hitting home. I find myself reminiscing about special occasions from my own childhood, grandparents and great grandparents I have lost, and the wisdom they shared. I decided there must be a way to memorialize these occasions, for myself, for my daughter, and for future generations. A quick Google search returned a plethora of ideas, but one stood out the most, the Heirloom Tablecloth. Many holidays and milestones are celebrated at the table; it seems fitting to capture these moments on the tablecloth. There are many ways to start an Heirloom Tablecloth tradition. The basics are outlined below, but the most exciting part of this tradition is the ability to customize it — letting your family and friends’ unique perks and quirks shine through!

How to Create an Heirloom Tablecloth Tradition

  • Start with a blank canvas.A durable tablecloth made of washable fabric, a painter’s drop cloth, or a white sheet will work.
  • Decide which supplies best fit your needs.You can have guests use Sharpies, but keep in mind that entries will fade a bit with each wash. A more permanent, yet labor-intensive approach, is to have guests use a fabric pen then embroider each signature or entry.
  • Consider your purpose.Do you want a basic guest book? If so, have guests sign and date. If you have small children, consider letting them trace their hands and write their name and age in the middle, or create a Thanksgiving-themed cloth by having each guest write their name and something they are thankful for. The ideas are endless; try including your family in the creative process as you decide what information you want to capture.
  • Continue the tradition. Some families have kept their Heirloom Tablecloth traditions alive for 30 plus years. One organization tip is to use a different color pen for each year. Deb Mills, interviewed by ABC News, took it to the next level. “Each year is done in a different color, and along the edge, I have the color code. For 2015 we have royal blue because the Kansas City Royals won the World Series.”

It is easy to get bogged down with stress from the pandemic, working, homeschooling, and regular holiday prep. The days can feel long, but upon reflection, I see the years are indeed short. I hope that you will join me this November in letting go of the things we cannot control. Instead, focus on the present moment. Consider starting a family tradition such as the Heirloom Tablecloth as a way to connect to your family and friends in the now and enjoy the memories for years to come.


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