I find it interesting how one piece of dinnerware can shape your family memories. The Red Plate is just as it sounds: a shiny red dinner plate with white letters around the rim that read You Are Special Today. A friend gave my parents The Red Plate when my brother and I were small, and this one plate became one of the pillars of our family traditions. After growing up with the presence of The Red Plate, I’m now raising a family of my own; we have a Red Plate too. Here’s the official scoop on The Red Plate and why I think your family should have one.
The Red Plate encourages hospitality. “When someone has dinner at our home for the first time, we serve this guest on our Red Plate. It truly doesn’t matter people’s age or whose guest they are, which means that my friends get the royal treatment too. In our family we are equal-opportunity ‘celebrationists.’ If you’re joining us for the first time, The Red Plate is yours,” I wrote in my book, Let’s Pretend We’re Normal: Adventures in Rediscovering How To Be A Family (The Crown Publishing Group, 2015).
The Red Plate helps you get to know somebody new. As part of that family tradition for new guests, “at your Red Plate dinner, the rest of us get to ask you questions of our choice. Don’t think firing squad; think opportunity to shine, for you to talk all about yourself without apology, for my children to learn how to be good conversationalists, and for all of us to learn about someone new. When the boys hosted their first red plate dinner, they each brought a friend home from school: a precocious little boy and a lovely ‘friend who is a girl.’ I served pizza and grapes and Kool-Aid. (Tucker’s little buddy guest asked me if it was alcohol.) We shared our questions around the table. These included “What is your favorite color? What is your favorite dessert? What is your favorite weapon?” (Tyler nixed that one, since it isn’t appropriate to talk about violence and weapons unless a girl wants to.) The truth is, everybody longs to be known, and The Red Plate gives your family an opportunity to love other people with the gift of asking good questions.
The Red Plate tradition can grow with your kids. Here’s a little secret: if you start the tradition early enough, if it’s solidly in place as your way to meet new friends, then you have a very natural segue to get to know the kids your teenagers will date. I happen to know the longitudinal studies of this tradition; my parents had been so gracious entertaining my friends for dinner, and word began to spread that if you date one of the Lott Kids, you get to eat on The Red Plate. During my senior year of high school, when we had hosted a foreign exchange student in our home, we had one busy week with three Red Plate Dinners so that each of our dates could get The Red Plate Treatment before the Homecoming Dance on Saturday. (My parents actually set aside The Red Plate on that particular night, opting instead to improvise with red Chinette plates for our three guests. Obviously the meaning isn’t in The Plate, but rather in the conversation and tradition.)
Everybody’s included in The Red Plate Tradition. As I mentioned, we are “equal-opportunity celebrationists” and every guest gets The Red Plate honor. So when I started dating the man who is now my husband, my children were delighted to turn the tables and learn more about Peter with his own Red Plate Dinner. I was never more thankful for the tradition than on this night I got to watch my children get to know this man who was then so new in their lives, this man who would finish the journey of raising them with me.
Red Plates make the Happiest Birthdays and the most Joyful Celebrations. Nothing says “Happy Birthday” or “Congratulations” or “We’re Proud of You” – or all of those combined – like The Red Plate. It’s such a fun way to have breakfast in bed or a giant piece of cake set ablaze with birthday candles, and it’s a joyful recognition on the day of a big test, a winning touchdown, or a job interview. The Red Plate can become a festive accouterment to any celebration.
You can order a Red Plate on Amazon. You can Amazon One-Click this lovely dish to your door, and you’ll have memorable family dinners faster than you can say This Weekend. (I firmly believe Jesus is the answer, and for everything else, there’s Amazon.)
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Tricia Lott Williford is a remarried widow, a mom to two young men, a writer, teacher, reader, and thinker. Thousands of readers join her each morning for a cup of coffee as they sign online to read today’s funny, poignant stories that capture the fleeting moments of life. She is the author of two books: And Life Comes Back: A Wife’s Story of Love, Loss and Hope Reclaimed; and Let’s Pretend We’re Normal: Adventures in Rediscovering How to be a Family. Tricia collects words, quotes, and bracelets, and she lives in Denver with her new husband and two sons. You can get to know Tricia through her daily posts at tricialottwilliford.com.