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Tablecloth (Mouse Over)

Dear Kim,

My sister called to discuss getting my parents ready for the impending move to New York.

“They have so much stuff, Joanie. When you come in, I really need your help going through things.”

“Sure, “I said.

“There are these two coffee cups with little red hearts on them that say ‘I Love You’. What is that about?”

I gave that to them,” I said sheepishly. “Cheesy, I know. At the time it seemed like a good idea.”

“And this book on Alger Hiss,“ she said. “What do they need that for?”

She reconsidered. “Oh, I gave them that. Well, it still needs to go. And then there’s this chest in the guest room that we got at Scandinavian Imports when I was a kid.”

“I remember that chest,” I said. “I love that chest.”

“Me, too. But It’s all banged up and the drawers stick,” she said.

We let the momentousness of the task hang in the air and both sighed.

“It ok, Laurel,“ I said. “I’ll help you. We’ll get through it together.”

“Mom said we should get rid of everything. Well, as much as we want. We’ll donate things.”

I hung up and thought about my mother’s tablecloths. What will we do about the tablecloths?

Most of the time, my mother sets the table in the dining room with good china and a fresh cloth tablecloth.

There are cloths from Nicaragua and Spain, Ireland and sales from Marshall Fields’s downtown. Cloths that reflect her changing taste over the years.

I remember coming home for a visit several years and watching my diminutive mother
fluff a long pale yellow linen cloth that was bigger than she was.

As I help her smooth the cloth over the long oak table we have had all of my life, I asked, “Who’s coming to dinner?”

“No one, “she said. “Just you and me and dad.”

So why are you using a fresh table cloth?,“ I asked.

“Why? Don’t you deserve a nice table? Don’t we?”

As soon as we kids were old enough to not spill or knock something over at every meal, there has been a tablecloth. Even if it had to be washed and ironed after a single dinner or later sent out for dry cleaning when my mother’s physical energies began to falter.

I’m imaging that my mother didn’t have a tablecloth growing up. Or maybe they had an oil cloth that covered the same table for years in the tiny cold water flat on Rivington on the lower east side of New York where she was raised.

I’m sure there was a real cloth table cloth for the Sabbath and that her mother lit the candles. I sure wish could see it.

But I don’t know the story of her tablecloths. There is so much I don’t know. I will have to ask.

"Kim: My father sold tableclothes in the loop in Chicago. He and his brothers had linen and lingerie stores...called "Mosleys" and then from around 1960-1980 my mom had a store on the corner of Wabash and Adams called "EM Intimate Apparel." She became the therapist for all the working woman in the loop, under the guise of selling undergarmets.

I remember my father so lovingly handle a tablecloth that he was selling and showing the customer the fine workmanship. We still have some of his tablecloths, and Linda had to work with them to get the stains out of them (some had not been washed for a long long time).

At Josh and Sarah's wedding we made a canopy out of one with four bamboo poles. Each of the parents carried one pole and set it in a pot for the ceremony. They now have the tablecloth for my parent's dining room set, which they also have inherited.)

Later,

Joan

Friday, Jan 27, 2006

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