The plates were small. Thank goodness they were on the small side. Otherwise our four plates would not have fit on the table.

They were so close together that the back edge of our plates hung ever so slightly off of the table’s edge, and they were practically touching each other. The table was pink and made of plastic and had matching little pink chairs.

I was sitting at a child’s play table with my two cousins — Winky and Duane — and my sister Donnette. I must have been 5 or 6 years old.

Not only were the youngsters at the table related to me, they were also my best friends and playmates, and I could not have been happier. Our plates were full of turkey, dressing and gravy and our shoulders would rub when we spooned the mashed potatoes to our mouth.

We could hear the adults quietly talking at the big table, and we giggled as we ate at ours. That is my first memory of Thanksgiving, and I could not have been more thankful.

In the movies and on TV you sometimes see scenes where families and friends gather around long, grandiose and extravagant tables that can seat 20 or more people. Oh, how grand it would have been if everyone at one of our Thanksgiving meals could have all been seated at the same table.

In a dream I can see my dad seated at the head of an ostentatious table and my mom to his right or left side. I see my siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, lining both sides the entire length. Everyone would be at the same table, at the same time.

But that’s not how it was.

There was a table in the home large enough to seat six grownups. If you really scrunched everyone up and borrowed mismatched chairs from around the house, you might have seated eight adults. That’s normally what happened on Thanksgiving at our house.

There was no room for the children at the big table, as we called it. However, preparations were always made so that together, we could all sit down at the same time to eat our Thanksgiving meal. We children would be seated at a folding card table, or some other accommodation would be made.

As I got older, I began wanting to sit at the big table on Thanksgiving. I wanted to graduate from being a child and be considered one of the grownups and have one of those coveted eight places at the big table.

It never crossed my mind that when the day finally arrived there would be a reason for the vacancy that I was to inherit. If there was a seat available at the big table, the vacancy could be because some loved family member could not be present at a Thanksgiving meal or worse, the available seat could be the result of a grievous circumstance.

This Thanksgiving I will have a seat at the big table with my family. My cousins and extended families have their own families and give thanks in their own ways sitting at their own big tables. Their children or grandchildren might be seated at a folding table, giggling and rubbing shoulders as they enjoy their turkey and dressing. What they won’t realize is that they will never have a better Thanksgiving than the present one.

There won’t be any vacant seats at my Thanksgiving celebration coming up. All of the seats will be filled, and the faces of those who sit at the big table might be different and will continue to change, as it always has. I have so many things to be thankful for, and family gatherings are one of the things for which I am most thankful.

I came to realize over time that sitting at the big table comes as the result of the changes that life throws at us. If I had to name the best Thanksgiving in memory, it would be the one sitting at a little pink table in little pink matching chairs with my sister and cousins, eating and giggling.

Moving up to the big table isn’t as grand as I thought it would be.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

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Dr. Darlene Atkinson-Moran grew up in Olanta. She always knew she wanted to be a teacher. She is retired from the education profession and now resides in Florence with her husband, Michael. Contact her at citizencolumnist@florencenews.com.

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