tablecloth filled with signatures
Penelope Wilson
Penelope Wilson
November 21, 2019 ·  3 min read

Family Has a Thanksgiving Tablecloth Filled With 16 Years of Signatures

Family is everything. In the end, life boils down to the memories you made with the ones you love and cherish the most. 

Written in ink, embroidered for life…

Deb Mills from Clinton, Missouri, came up with an amazing idea to keep her family in each other’s hearts forever. She came up with a Thanksgiving tradition where everyone who comes over for dinner, including family and friends, would sign their names on a white table cloth with a permanent marker. She started this in 2000 and shared her story with ABC News in 2016. This year, it’s 19 years of unfading memories.

“We are a blended family, and we set out to make some very special family traditions that are all our own,” she told ABC News [1]. “Back in 2000, I got out this plain white tablecloth, and put it on the table, and my teenage kids looked at me like I was crazy when I said, ‘I want you to sign this tablecloth.’ Then a few years later, the [grandchildren] came along, and now we have 16 years of memories on the tablecloth.”

Forever in their hearts

To ramp up the fun in the tradition, they use a different color of marker every year. There are cute footprints of newborn babies who can’t write yet and drawings of several graduation hats.

When the holiday is over, Mills would take her time to embroider the names with colorful threads so they would never leave the tablecloth.

According to Mills, the most sacred signature on the table cloth is that of her daughter, Mary, who died of a ruptured aneurysm in 2013, at the age of 44.

“The most important thing is we have the names, the signatures of those that have been dear to us through the years that are no longer with us,” Mills said tearfully. “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 to us at this point, and I’m sure that tablecloth is irreplaceable to our four remaining kids and 10 grandkids and anybody else that has sat our table.”

Mills and her family have a lifetime of memories to hold onto and an amazing tradition to pass down to future their generations.

She had it all figured out

Mills explains that when she started the tradition, her kids had reservations about their dates signing the table.

“When the kids were younger, they would say, ‘If we invite so and so and we break up, then what?’” Mills said. “And that has happened. But we have gravy boats strategically placed for just that reason.”

Mills is proud that her tradition is being taken up by younger moms and even her own friends. 

“It’s just a little special tablecloth to us. It’s no big deal,” she said. “But people are now planning on starting it this Thanksgiving. These are younger girls, and I’ll have them over to show them how to embroider it for years to come.”

“We are so blessed with such a great family,” Mills said. “Families are of extreme importance, and making memories and traditions that carry on to the next generation are so irreplaceable.”

My family is definitely starting our tablecloth this year!

  1. Family’s Thanksgiving tablecloth has 16 years of signatures.” ABC News. Eliza Murphy Retrieved 19-11-19
  2. Ruptured brain aneurysm.” Mayfield Clinic. Writer. Retrieved 19-11-19