My New Love: White Linen Tablecloths
My mom loved a beautiful table and had drawers of colourful linen table cloths, and even a specially sized table protector for under her tablecloth. Because of ten-plus years of babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers in my home, I was slow to appreciate the charms of a table cloth, thinking only of how it would be pulled of accidentally, and the spills. Even when everyone was old enough to sit at the table without summersaulting and knew some table manners, we didn't have a table cloth because I couldn't find one big enough for the giant sized dinner table my family had stored in basements for generations. I think it looks funny when the table cloth barely covers the table, and most modern round table cloths would barely cover ours. Then last year, our local kitchen store, the Seasoned Kitchen, brought in a huge round linen table cloth in grey here. And for my birthday this year, I bought another one in white linen.
Even ironed, linen looks a little rumply. The more these are washed, the softer they get. Did you hear me, a modern woman, admit that I iron table cloths? And pillow cases. When your first toy is a tiny pink ironing board and iron, the conditioning is hard to shake. Important note: sweep the dog hair from under the ironing board before draping the table cloth over it!
I find that whenever one of the table cloths is on, there is an instant home feeling in the house. I know this must relate to my mom's love of table cloths. They bring a softness to all the hard wood of the dining area. Also, they allow me not to paint the chairs, the patina of which I have come to love, especially when the old black leather chair seats are covered in pretty cushions. By the way, the patina of the table was altered in the 80's, when my parents converted the table top to a giant coffee table and had it refinished. Now it doesn't match the legs or the chairs. Another good reason to cover it.
One obvious rule for using a white table cloth in my home: eat hamburgers in the kitchen. And put a placemat on top for safety.
Here are some of my other rules for the table, to help make dinner an occasion, which my family members now appreciate so much they complain when one is missing:
Telfer Table Rules
1. Beeswax candles must be lit every night. (These are made by local orthodox monks. A few extra are sold in a tiny local store.) If you have old silver candlesticks, even better.
2. Fresh cut flowers at all times. My favourites in the winter are hydrangeas from the florist because of their greenish white colour and long life (if you trim them and replace the water with warm water when they start to droop.) In the summer I prefer fresh cut roses from the garden. My husband insists on keeping the flower arrangements low so we can see one another.
3. Cloth napkins. I can brag about my environmental virtue by saying that we have never used paper napkins in our almost 25 year marriage. These ones are by April Cornell.
4. Placemats: safety reasons already mentioned. Still, no ketchup.
5. Tablecloth! Oh, and having two table cloths lowers the anxiety about spills. Now there will be a clean one for tomorrow and I don't have to stay up all night doing laundry and ironing. (I told you I was becoming like my mother!)
6. And for my youngest teenager: set the table with the knife, fork and spoon in the right order and even neatly. Not so neat above but I try not to be a terror.
7. T.V. off. Sometimes we like quiet music, but usually not.
8. Do not answer the phone if it rings.
9. Don't eat your dessert until your mother has her piece in front of her. (That's me, not wanting to serve second pieces of cake or pie before I've had one bite.)
10. And one other little trick I recently learned: if I put the chairs on the diagonal, everyone has room to push their chair back comfortably. Charlotte Moss says this size of table can seat six, and with the chairs this way, it can. It aslo has four leaves, but I don't have a table cloth that big yet.
I think my mom would approve of this tablecloth, and of course I wish I could still invite her over for dinner, now that I appreciate the things she always did. I guess I am a slow learner in the household arts.