“A Feast of Faces,” Nov. 13, 2018


How do you seat 20 guests at a table that holds only eight?

That’s a puzzle I work on every year when Thanksgiving rolls around. You’d think by now I could solve it. But try as I might, the pieces never quite fit.

Sometimes, I use folding tables, snaking them from the dining room through the living room with six to eight guests at each table. That way everybody gets enough elbow room to eat and talk and laugh and breathe. The only problem with it is I can’t see everyone’s face.

I don’t eavesdrop on their conversations. Unless I’m in earshot. But I love to watch their faces. The smiles. The laughs. Even the frowns when they bite into something that doesn’t taste like anything they’d ever want to eat. It would be such a pleasure to see all those faces looking back at me. But I’d need a dining room as big as a gym and a table as long as a landing strip.

As problems go, it’s a good one. It’s a gift, absolutely, to have more loved ones than chairs. But when we sit down to eat, I still want to see their faces.

The good news is I’m the only one who ever seems to care. Everybody else just crowds in as best they can, joins hands to give thanks, eats whatever is offered, goes back for seconds and leaves happy and stuffed.

That’s my definition of a good meal and a great time. It’s even better if I don’t knock myself out to make it happen. (I like my chiropractor, but I’d rather not spend the Christmas holidays face down on his table.)

So recently, as I stood in our dining room trying to picture 20 people at an eight-person table, my husband walked in, gave me a quick look and without even trying, read my mind.

He does that a lot. It’s scary.

“I have an idea,” he said.

“About what?”

“About Thanksgiving.”

“What?” I said, rolling my eyes. “You want both sweet potato AND pumpkin pie?”

“Yes,” he said. “But for dinner, I think we should all go out.”

A crow cackled on the porch.

“Go out?” I said. “You mean, like, to a restaurant? Where somebody who is not me does all the shopping and prepping and cooking and cleaning and chiropractic appointments?”

He grinned and walked away. I ran after him like a hound on a rabbit. And that’s how we decided to host this year’s Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant, with an after-dinner party at our house.

We made reservations at a place with a menu that offers something for everyone, even for our crew with their different tastes and eating styles.

OK, I know what you’re thinking. You’re right. It won’t be cheap. But if you add up what we’d spend to eat at home, along with my potential chiropractic bills, we might come out ahead.

The only catch is I’ll still need to do a small turkey and some stuffing and a few pies (sweet potato AND pumpkin) to have leftovers. It wouldn’t seem like Thanksgiving without them.

Some things change, but others stay the same. This year, we’ll share Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant. But we’ll all be together, sitting close enough, I hope, for me to see everyone’s face. And a good time will be had by all. Especially by me.

As always, I’ll set a table in my heart for friends and loved ones, living or long departed, who’ll be with us in spirit only.

I’ll save a place for you at that table. Maybe you’ll save one for me?

I’ll say a prayer for the thousands of souls who have lost loved ones and homes and hopes and dreams to storms and floods and fires.

And I will give thanks for a great many blessings: For family and friends; for the gift of life and the chance to wake up each day to see what happens next; for readers who say my stories are their stories, too; and for a husband who reads my mind.

Here’s wishing you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving. May you have all you need and share it with others. And may you see all the faces you love.



  1. Sally Brown says

    Happy,happy Thanksgiving to you and your smiling faces! You always bring a smile to my face and warmth to my heart. You are one of my blessings!

  2. Debbie Goode says

    I enjoy your columns, as always. Especially the one today about Thanksgiving and about
    setting a table in your heart, for friends and loved ones departed. I’ve read that in your
    columns before, and loved it. Hope you and all your family have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. I will save you a seat…You and all my loved ones, near or far, gone but never forgotten…who can’t make this meal.

  4. It’s the people, not the location. Some people get locked into “traditions” that make it hard to change anything. For many refugees from fires, it may be a temporary place, a cafe, a tent. We don’t have easy housing for them. Today on NPR I heard someone talking about celebrating a 7 year old’s birthday in the shelter by Paradise, CA. It wasn’t the same as a party in his home, but it was pretty great anyway.

  5. Kate Sciacca says

    Oh my goodness… was hoping we could do the same – but the few who will be at home with us (only 10) would have none of it. So I’m going to let Costco do much of the work. Usually we go to our daughter’s or son’s home for a complete family (26 I think???) Thanksgiving dinner where they do all the work and I eat at the kids table with the grands. But not this year – the two who have Homes big enough to hold us are both moving in the next week or two – so there will be no drive “over the hill” to have dinner together- I won’t miss that part. Seems like half the population of the real NV heads to CA for turkey- should be fairly quiet around these parts … looking forward to that ?


    Hi Sharon,
    I read with the Panetta Institute’s program in the Schools. I received such a surprise today when I entered my first classroom at Marshall School and there has Joanna with her students. This grown -up,mature woman, Joanna Guzman, is not the teenager I remember. It was a delight for me and I will be in her classroom during one morning a week for this school year. I feel very fortunate to be able to work with your daughter.

  7. Jeri Duncan says

    We are on the same page! Blessings to you and your family !?

  8. Yes. Seeing the smiles of family is wonderful feeling. Happy thanksgiving to your family.

  9. A friend shared one of your posts over a year ago and I now have an anxiousness to read your words every week. So much of how I feel you can put into words. For some years now, my only married child has alternated this holiday with her in-laws which means we get creative in celebrating with our other two children. This year, I’m calling it the traveling Thanksgiving. I will cook our favorites, pack them in coolers, drive to Omaha to pickup my youngest daughter before heading to Chicago to stay in a B&B because my middle son will not have enough room. The idea was first crazy, but God always gives you ideas to make family time memorable. Thank you for sharing your gift each week, it is a blessing to read.

  10. Barbara Ballard says

    I love your take on what you want out of Thanksgiving–the smiling faces of friends and family. Enjoy being with those you love and who love you. Happy Thanksgiving!

  11. What a wonderful idea! If only I could get my gang to agree!
    A few ago years it happened that our two children & their families did the in-law thing. I took the opportunity to book hubby & myself at a bountiful buffet and I thoroughly enjoyed it. However, my daughter was crushed that we would do such a thing & promised we would never be alone again even if she had to eat two meals! She never did realize how much I enjoyed someone else doing the cooking. And the dishes. And yes, the drawback is no leftovers!
    May you have a Blessed Thanksgiving with your family & friends. I’ll save you a piece of Indiana sugar cream pie! ?????

  12. Polly Caudle says

    Happy Thanksgiving. I have the same problems each year also. But we are not at 20 yet , just 13 plus our new born great grandson. I didn’t get to send you a picture of him, but I did enjoy your talk at Centenary UMC in Winston-Salem. You can see a picture of him and his big dimples on my FB page.

  13. Elaine Mccaffery says

    We’ve eaten out on a holiday before ,it’s not the same as home; but it is convenient. And in the end everyone was full and happy. Hope you enjoy your family and Happy Thanksgiving .?

  14. I bet you and your family will have a special thanksgiving no matter where you are. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours and thank you for sharing the most amazing snippets of your life with all of us.

  15. Naomi Smith says

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  16. Patti Peters says

    LOVE these words Sharon! Enjoy your “restaurant” and your family, and I hope the fires are far from you.

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