Thanksgiving family tablecloth decorated with signatures 16 years ago

(ABC News) – A Missouri woman has come up with a unique way to take care of her family. Thanksgiving Day memories every year — and she couldn’t be more grateful for what she did.

In 2000, Clinton’s Deb Mills began a holiday tradition whereby anyone who joins her family Thanksgiving Day dinner sign her white tablecloth.

“We’re a blended family and we’ve decided to create some special family traditions that are our own,” she told ABC News of her unique idea. “Back in 2000, I took 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, [grandchildren] came, and now we have 16 years of memories on the tablecloth.”

PHOTO: Deb Mills of Clinton, Missouri, is asking everyone who joins them for Thanksgiving to sign their name on her tablecloth.

Deb Mills of Clinton, Missouri is asking everyone who joins them for Thanksgiving to sign on her tablecloth.

Contributed by Deb Mills

There is one memory, perhaps the most sacred and special: the signature of their daughter Maria, who died suddenly from a ruptured aneurysm three years ago at the age of 44.

“The most important thing is that we have the names, the signatures of those who were dear to us over the years, who are no longer with us,” Mills said emotionally, holding back tears. “In particular, we lost our daughter three years ago, and this is a special opportunity to set this tablecloth on the table every Thanksgiving, and there is the name of Mary, and she is among us. Also my mother and my husband’s father. These three signatures are indispensable for us at the moment, and I am sure that this tablecloth is indispensable for our four remaining children, 10 grandchildren and everyone who sat at our table.”

PHOTO: Deb Mills of Clinton, Missouri, is asking everyone who joins them for Thanksgiving to sign their name on her tablecloth.

All close friends and family members sign their name with a pen of the same color, which changes every year.

“Every year is a different color and I have a color code on the edge,” Mills explained. “For 2015 we have royal blue because of [Kansas City] The Royals have won the World Series. I then hand embroider it during the winter months. This makes it more durable.”

Newborn footprints and a graduation hat pattern also decorate the tablecloth to mark the holidays of each generation. Although there are names that are better left in the past.

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

The proud grandmother is flattered that a few of her friends heard about this tradition and started making tablecloths themselves.

“For us, this is just a special tablecloth. It’s okay,” she said. “But now people are planning to launch it this Thanksgiving. These are younger girls and I will invite them to show them how to embroider for years to come.”

More than anything, Mills said, “We are so blessed with such a wonderful family. Family is of the utmost importance and creating memories and traditions that are passed on to the next generation is irreplaceable.”