Classic TV shows like Leave It to Beaver and The Waltons frequently depicted families gathering around the dinner table at the end of the evening. More often than not, the dinner table was covered by a tablecloth. Families sat down to good food, good conversation, and a time of bonding. It was a nightly ritual.
TV and movies tend to glamorize things. We know that. But still, there was a time when family meals around the dining room table were common. That has not been the case in this country for quite some time. That is sad, at least to this writer. It makes me think that somewhere is a lonely tablecloth just waiting to be used.
More Than Just Eating
Mealtime used to be about more than just eating. In some cultures, it still is. Take Greece, for example. You can still visit there today and experience an authentic Greek meal complete with plenty of friends and family members all sitting around for hours, talking and laughing over a good meal.
As for the tablecloth, its main function is to protect the table surface underneath. And yet, it has come to symbolize so much more. You know it yourself. There is a big difference between sitting down in a formal restaurant, complete with table linens, and stopping by the local diner where you will eat on a bare table.
Table linens inevitably create a more formal environment, according to the experts at Salt Lake City-based Alsco. If you were opening a formal restaurant yourself, you wouldn’t even think of offering your guests bare tables and paper napkins. Formality requires linen tablecloths and napkins in colors that coordinate with the rest of the restaurant’s decor.
Tablecloths at Home
In light of everything discussed thus far, using a tablecloth at home creates a distinction between sitting down to enjoy a meal together and eating something quick before you run out the door. Just think about your own experience.
Let’s say you have a tablecloth in the drawer ready for use. Would you bother spreading it out if your dinner time plans consisted of throwing a hotdog in the microwave and carrying it out the door in your mouth as you head off to whatever it is you are doing that evening? Of course not. You would only spread the tablecloth if you were planning to sit down and linger for a while. And that is the point.
There is nothing inherently special about a tablecloth. It is just a piece of fabric you lay down to cover your table. But it symbolizes something. It expresses the fact that you do not intend to eat and run. You intend to sit down and relax. And that is what’s missing from too many American households these days.
Always on the Go
We are a society always on the go. Even now, as we emerge from coronavirus, many of us are resuming the same hectic schedules we knew before the virus hit. We are going right back to the way things were last year at this time. Is that good or bad?
Recent research suggests that regular family meals are good for both parents and kids alike. Of course, one piece of research doesn’t make the science definitive. But through the years, more than one family health expert has stated that regular family meals do offer tangible benefits.
Maybe it is time to break out that family tablecloth and start using again. If you don’t have one, perhaps there is a lonely tablecloth out there just waiting to be used. You only have to find it.