A table covered with memories

Elise T. Chisolm

November 24, 1992|By Elise T. Chisolm

The tablecloth might be 100 years old, maybe older. Or maybe it's my age. Anyway, I feel old ironing it. But it is still a thing of beauty.

With intricate blue cross-stitch on the border, pastel flowers in each corner and a cornucopia centerpiece, it's a masterpiece of needlework.

I hate to iron, always have. I will scrub your floor, but don't bring me your ironing. I thought I retired the iron when I retired.

As I stand here pressing the large cloth, however, I am thinking that Thanksgiving is a splendid holiday.

No gifts to exchange, no marathon shopping and no material obligations -- just the promise of family or close friends. And, of course, turkey, trimmings and tablecloths.

Families have certain rituals. This tablecloth has graced our dining table for generations. Someone who really cared wove every tedious stitch with deft hands -- so the cloth has special meaning: continuance.

I watch out for the border. It is crooked from the last bad ironing. I can hear my mother saying, "The borders are hard to do, be careful . . . no starch, remember, that wears out the material." So I start with the centerpiece.

For the past 10 years we've gone to our oldest son's for Thanksgiving.

But like any large family, all of whom work, some will be somewhere else.

As any mother knows, you can't always have them at holiday time. Children leave home and have their own families. They have in-law obligations, and rightly so.

So I may be cooking Thanksgiving dinner. At least that was last week's decision. If the kids can't make it, we will have some lonely people for Thanksgiving dinner. There is no problem lining up those who would otherwise be alone on this holiday.

Now I am gliding the iron over some of the bad spots in the cloth, watching out for those almost thread-bare places. I look closely for those ancient coffee stains when someone, probably my grandmother, didn't get all the spots out right away.

I can remember my mother always placing large dishes of pickles over the bad spots, and I learned to do the same.

Here's a big worn place. I change the setting on the iron.

As I approach the borders and try to get them flat again, I can hear my mother telling us, "Don't spill any cranberries on the table, please."

I don't think she had a clue as to who in the family cross-stitched this tablecloth.

Now, I am attacking the beautiful napkins. Were they always this big?

I am engulfed in memories of Thanksgivings past, and how, as a child, I always had to set the table. I know these flowers by heart, and I know I have always loved this cloth. But I still hate to iron.

As my thoughts wander along with the movement of the now spitting iron, I realize this project is taking too long. I have allowed time for reflection.

Wait, the telephone rings. Someone very dear to me wants us to come to their house for Thanksgiving dinner. We may do just that. After all, didn't I say that Thanksgiving is a fine holiday and should be full of friendship, sharing and thankfulness.

And I am thankful the cloth is ironed. Surely, if I store it just right, maybe I won't have to iron it next year.

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