It will be set there for someone who will be notable for their absence.
Empty chairs disturb me, and I don't know why. Maybe they're all just waiting for somebody to sit in them.
First thing tomorrow morning, my dad, Alex, will be downstairs in his basement workshop with a brand new Skil Saw, preparing to make a complete bollocks of yet another bit of home improvement. His motto is measure once, cut incessantly. He's the worst handyman in the world, and I hope that he'll teach me everything that he knows one day.
My mom, Freddie, will be in the kitchen, and as usual, she'll be cooking too much food for the number of people she expects. At the end of the day, when all have gone home with their cumbersome, unwieldy parcels of leftovers, there will be enough still for turkey pies, soups and sandwiches until the Crack of Doom. In time, all of us will tire of that particular bounty.
Sport, my eldest brother's gentle, old dog, will haunt the kitchen too, hoping that time will come soon.
My second brother, Jim, will stay in his room most of the day, listening to Elvis' new Christmas album, wondering whether it has too many gospel songs and not enough Christmas tunes. Before too long, he'll decide that it has. Elvis will be back in his album sleeve, and Roy Orbison or Marty Robbins will be spinning on the turntable instead.
Time passes, circumstances change, friends fall or friendships fade. If we're lucky, we're enriched by their remembrance more than we are diminished by their absence. But the people and the things that we love are never really gone. They have their place in our hearts, our thoughts and our memories. They'll be in that place tomorrow, and they'll return whenever we invite them back.
All of the people I love will be too busy to occupy my empty chair tomorrow, but empty chairs still disturb me.
By all means, keep an empty chair at your table, but save it for someone who's left the room, for someone who'll be arriving late or for someone you have yet to meet.
This chair is yours - be welcome and celebrate the day.