When my mother hosted Thanksgiving one year, the aunts (4), uncles (2) and cousins (7) from her side of the family were added to the regular table count of eleven, children (9) and adults (2). In planning for this massive convergence, she decided to rearrange the dining room to accommodate the ping-pong table from the garage as the main table. Chairs from every area of the home were fitted tightly around the table’s perimeter. Seating along the back wall would be permanent; once in, you were stuck for the duration of the meal.
As the dinner hour approached, my mother began loading up the center of the table: traditional cornucopia fitted with pilgrim hat centerpiece, rolls, and jellied cranberry with can rib-tattoos. The guests squeezed in, seated themselves, and the hot food began to appear: green bean casserole, brussel sprouts, creamed onions, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and finally, an enormous turkey. The sight was magnificent. The food was steaming and hot and arranged perfectly on the center of the ping-pong table….and also, very much out of reach.
The little know fact about the geometry of a ping pong table is that the depth of the center of such a table does not allow for the normal arm’s reach; it does not allow for the abnormal arm’s reach. All of sat and stared at the meal just out of our grasp.
Finally, an older and taller cousin seated in a corner stood up.
“Serving…mashed potatoes!” he cried, standing and stretching as far as he could, grabbed a nearby bowl of mashed potatoes and brought it to rest on his own plate. Turning to those around him, he dolloped a few mounds. Pushing that bowl back moved the green beans closer to another cousin who completed the same maneuver. The green beans were pushed up against the stuffing, and that stuffing was now closer to an aunt.
And so it went, slowly, the serving bowls were pushed against each other and plates were loaded up with one side dish after another until everyone’s plate was full. The ping pong table was a success.