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A Favorite Mom Memory: The Picnic Tablecloth

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A picnic tablecloth is such a simple thing but it can dress up any picnic lunch.

We took a lot of road trips when I was growing up. We would drive up the coast of California to visit family. Every few years, we would move across country. During those road trips, we always stopped at a rest stop for lunch.

Our lunches didn’t consist of drive-thru hamburgers but it would instead be a homemade meal packed in a bright blue cooler on wheels.

We would pull into the rest stop and stake out our picnic table. As my mom set out our lunch, my sister and I would play tag and run off the energy that children produce when stuck in a car for five hours. We would explore the information on the signs and then return out of breath to find a feast waiting for us on a brightly-colored picnic tablecloth.

The first course would consist of tuna fish sandwiches or a spread of deli meats and cheeses. I remember the way the sweet red grapes were so icy cold from being in the cooler all morning. Those grapes could have been dessert but our meal didn’t stop there. The next course came from a plastic container and was almost always homemade brownies or crisp rice treats.

Now that I have two children of my own, our road trips usually include a few meals at a rest stop. Our meals are the same as the meals of my childhood. When my children are finished getting the wiggles out, they arrive at the table ready to gorge on sandwiches and chips. When they finish eating, they seek out the bag of food to discover which homemade treat I brought. Will it be cookies this time? I still think that icy cold grapes from the cooler taste the best but the one thing that was always missing at my rest stop lunches was the picnic tablecloth.

A few years ago, my mom gifted me a picnic tablecloth of my own for Mother’s Day. Sure, I had other tablecloths that I used for various occasions but this tablecloth? It was made for the rest stop picnic table. It was bright blue with pink, orange and yellow flowers. As I rubbed my hand across the smooth vinyl, memories of yesteryear’s road trips came flooding back.

That vinyl tablecloth earned a special place in the trunk of my car, making road trip rest stop picnic lunches a little more civilized. I am thankful that my mother took the time to make the little moments like lunch at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere as memorable as she could. I only hope to pass the same appreciation of the little moments to my own children.

Jennifer Close writes about family travel at Two Kids and a Map. In 2012, her family left the beaches of Pensacola, Florida for the mountains of Denver, Colorado. She likes to read, craft and look for adventures with her children and you can find her at Two Kids and a Map.

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Comments
  • comment avatar Amber Johnson May 8, 2014

    I love this idea. What simple way to make even the mundane special. I’m seriously going out and buying a tablecloth just for the car and road trips!

  • comment avatar Patty May 8, 2014

    Lovely. Moms have the magic touch!

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