Family Tradition: A holiday tablecloth has helped one Merced family trace their history

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Imagine having a real connection to every Thanksgiving dinner your family has ever enjoyed.

When this Merced family sits down to have their meal, they've always made sure to sign the tablecloth. Six generations are now represented.

Before the meal is prepared and the table is set, a treasured family heirloom must first be spread out. It is a 60-year old tablecloth signed by family members and friends.

Jennifer Smith explained, "My grandmother Ruby Smith started this tablecloth the year I was born in 1958 because I was the first grandchild."

Ruby lived in Manhattan Beach back then. Jennifer's dad Jack was fond of drawing and making fun of his brothers -- though Jerry was never as big as he was depicted in a tablecloth drawing.

Smith's daughter Justine Tarleton said, "Probably the pictures are one of my favorite things and kind of silly things people wrote. The marriages and divorces and new marriages are interesting to me."

The tablecloth has allowed them to literally trace family history. The practice of stitching over penciled in signatures has been passed down.

Smith said, "I have been stitching this since I was 12."

After six decades there isn't much room for the newest additions to the family.

In an age of social media and living for the moment, Justine hopes her own kids can keep this piece of history alive as they get older.

Names aren't the only things you see on that tablecloth. Smith pointed out, "You know, this stain has been here since I was a teenager."

Signatures by Jeni and Jami stuck an emotional chord. Tarleton teared up when she said, "My dad's on here and he's no longer with us."

The message from late Aunt Mary always makes them chuckle. Smith read it, "Your good-looking sister in law Mary 1960 and Rich."

A story is attached to every single name on this tablecloth. Smith said, "Oh yeah this is a treasure."

One which helps the family rekindle fond memories of the past as they give thanks for the present.
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