The “Kid” Table and Thanksgiving

November 23, 2011 — Leave a comment

The holidays are upon us, so several of the writing projects at the high school have been “seasonal” in nature.
Journalism students have a running poll on pumpkin or apple pie (pumpkin is ahead). They have also asked faculty members to contribute a favorite Thanksgiving memory for a special holiday issue.
I will probably contribute my 17 years of memories sitting at the “kid” table.

A traditional “kid’s” table at Thanksgiving needs at least one unhappy older kid. While this is not a photo of my family, this photo accurately captures the frustration of being excluded from the main table during the holiday meal. There are a plethora of similar photos available on the Internet!

The kid table is that humbling Thanksgiving tradition that separates the china from the melamine, the goblet from the tumbler, the ladder-back chair from the booster seat, in order to keep the adults from the five year old. The kid table is a table strategically placed within hearing distance, but not necessarily viewing distance, of the main table. The kid table is usually close enough for a surprise inspection by a suspicious aunt, but far enough away for a muffled paper napkin spitball contest. Should the conversation at the adult table increase in volume, burping contests are also an option.
The kid table is supervised by….well, more kids. Little kids are placed under the care of big kids. Little kids are usually delighted; big kids, not so much. Older cousins always recognize they are being exploited as unpaid babysitters.
Several of my students have also commented about their stints at the kid table. More than one has calculated the number of years it will take him or her to  travel the circuitous route from kid table to finally gaining a seat at the main table. I can sympathize. Ours is a large family and there were 14 cousins ahead of me, an accident of birth order that relegated me to the kid table my entire adolescence. A seat at the main table was in a distant horizon.
The main table! An affirmation of age. A holiday dinner free of toddlers and away from the din of childish chatter. The main table! With glowing candles on the table, crystal goblets filled with jeweled liquids and fresh flowers in the centerpiece…. The main table promised a meal free from spilled milk, piles of uneaten vegetables, and sticky sticky tablecloths.

Except there are adults at the main table as well…and good manners are expected.

While I sympathize with my students and all other adolescents stuck at the kid table this Thanksgiving, I would like them to consider the advantages of being able to sculpt mashed potato mountains, hang a spoon from one’s nose, and yes, engage in a paper napkin spitball fight.
When the year came for me to finally graduate from the kid table, it was time for me to host my own Thanksgiving dinner. My first Thanksgiving was for a small gathering of in-laws and nephews who were very few in number.While the dining table comfortably could seat a dozen adults, I still put a small kid table in the corner.

Traditions must continue.

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