Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Tablecloth--a tribute*

Her things are always in my house; her coffee table and end table, dishes, pots, kitchen utensils. There is even a fleece jacket of hers that I wear almost every day during the winter, but I guess I’ve grown accustomed to having those things.

These are new. Tablecloths. I have a whole pile of them. Anita brought them up. Lace, linen, some Mother made, and many we bought her; one in particular stands out to me. She never used it much, said it did not fit the table for large groups, but I always loved it; the smoothness of the linen, the formality of it with just enough whimsy of fun in that trial of pale green shamrocks.

The things I was taught in the use of table clothes. Use the formal ones with the china, the bright printed ones with the Fiesta ware, for family dinners. There were others for Sunday after church dinners, parties with friends.

Much discussion always went into which one to use on which occasion. Did it hang right, was it the right color, and was it to short, too long? Dressing a table took forethought and preparation. It was a statement to your guests as they walked in your door.

“I’m ready for you!”
“I’m so glad you’re here!”
“I have planned something special just because you are coming.”

With the advent of Formica top tables, and polyurethane finishes, tables don’t need the protection of a table cloth or covering so much anymore. Place mats have also taken the place of table cloths. Shoot, people seldom drag out the china, and candle sticks anymore, if they entertain at all.

I did not realize that there was anything to doing it properly until I had Roger help me one time and he did not have a clue….he did not know the crease needs to run straight down the center of the table, the ends need to be even, to really do it correctly, you need a partner on the other end to get it centered just so. You don’t just “slap” a tablecloth on the table; you put something under it to protect the table. She went so far as taking old mattress pads and making table pads for her tables. She made special hangers to hang the cloths on in the closet after she had washed and ironed them so they would stay wrinkle free and ready to dress out the table at a moment’s notice.

As I went through the stack and looked at each one, I remembered them, and I remembered the times we used them, and I remembered her. I remember being taught to be particular about how you do things, pay attention to details--they matter, somethings go together, and somethings just don't. Protect and take care of your things, they are worth it, be prepared for company, make people feel special, sometime it takes more than two hands to do something right, and "Yes, the crease being straight matters". As I look at that stack I miss my mother. I’m thankful for my Mother and all the simple life lessons that she taught me by simply teaching me the how’s and whys of using a table cloth.
* from the archives....