A signature tradition

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Don and Carol Carter of Lafayette have a long-standing tradition. Each year, they ask the guests at their Thanksgiving meal to sign and date a tablecloth. They have used the same tablecloth for the past 27 Thanksgivings.

(Posted Dec. 2, 2020)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Messenger

When Don and Carol Carter invite you to Thanksgiving, they ask for your autograph.

Originally from West Virginia, the couple has lived in Lafayette, one block from the Red Brick Tavern, for 58 years. For the past 27 of those years, they have kept up a special Thanksgiving tradition.

“Since 1994, we have been using the same tablecloth every year. Each person writes their name and the date on it, and sometimes they write what they’re thankful for,” Don said.

Through 27 gatherings, the names and messages have endured.

Along the way, someone wrote, “We’re so thankful for friends and extended family.” Another wrote, “Thank you for inviting us.” One message reads: “Love God, love family and help others.”

When she was about 6 years old, the couple’s granddaughter wrote, “I’m cool.” In a subsequent year, she wrote, “I’m still cool.” She’s 25 years old now.

“It brings back good memories,” Don said of reading the names and comments.

Over the years, family and friends from five different states have gathered around that tablecloth. The Carters also make it a practice to invite people who have nowhere to go for the holiday feast.

“Each year is different from the previous year. It has been a blessing to make new friends and share with each other,” Don said.

Once someone is invited to the Carter home for Thanksgiving, they have a standing invitation from then forward, he said.

Due to the pandemic, this year’s gathering at the Carter household was small–just close family. In years past, the couple has had to add leaf extenders to the table to accommodate as many as 12 for the meal

And a big meal it is.

“People can bring something if they want, but we tell them, ‘Just bring yourself.’ We always have ham and turkey both and everything that goes with it,” Don said. “There’s always enough food for people to take home with them.

“We don’t want anything left, so we don’t have to mess with making turkey potpies and ham salad,” Don added with a chuckle.
Don and Carol hope that by sharing the story of their tradition that others will start traditions of their own.

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