For every Thanksgiving guest that sits down at the table of Deb Mills’ table in Missouri, there is one requirement: they have to sign the tablecloth. The pristine white Thanksgiving tablecloth is no longer pristine, but instead part of an incredible tradition.
In 2000, 16 years ago, Mills sat down at the table with her teenagers and told them, “I want you to sign this tablecloth.” As she told ABC News, “My teenage kids looked at me like I was crazy … Then a few years later, the [grandchildren] came along.” The memories of each guest that joined the Mills family at Thanksgiving are immortalized on that very tablecloth.
More than a sweet tradition, however, it holds an incredibly sad story. Mills’ daughter Mary passed away three years ago to a ruptured aneurysm. As Mills told ABC News,
“Particularly, we lost a daughter three years ago, and it is very special to be able to put that tablecloth on the table each Thanksgiving and there is Mary’s name and she’s among us. As well as my mother and my husband’s father. Those three signatures are irreplaceable at this point.”
The four remaining children and ten grandchildren have each signed it. The tablecloth theme rotates every year, as does the color of the marker used for close friends and family. In 2015, the Mills memorialized the Kansas City Royals winning the World Series by using a blue pen, for instance.
There are a few ex-boyfriends and girlfriends on the tablecloth, but that is just where the gravy boats and mashed potato dishes go.