Family · June's stupid life

Knotty pining for a tablecloth

I was decorating for Christmas and couldn’t find gramma’s tablecloth.

And by “gramma,” I mean the nice grandma, not the difficult one I’ve turned into.

And by “tablecloth,” I mean not at all a lovely fine Irish lace thing that’s been passed down through the generations or something.

Gramma never had “fine” anything. In fact, if you ever tried to give her something fancy, like let’s aim high and say a housecoat from a department store, she’d declare it “too nice” and keep it in its box, never to come out again. It’d stay pristine at the bottom of the drawer.

So when I say her tablecloth, I don’t mean the dainty linens she used at Christmas under some fine china and silver. I mean a fairly busy Christmas-themed tablecloth she probably got on sale the day after Christmas 1968, a tablecloth that for all the Christmases after she placed food she made from scratch on unbreakable no-nonsense Corelle plates.

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Back when I had a Steely Dan, a house in a normal neighborhood and gramma’s tablecloth

I had my gramma for 20 Christmases and can’t remember one Christmas present she ever gave me, except for those Life Saver books that for some reason we all loved.download

But I remember hauling her fake tree out the basement with her. Watching her put up the blinking lights to really fancy up the tree. Gramma was never one for white lights.

I remember the cardboard fireplace she’d set out, and the leather reindeer,

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the angels with perfectly round, singing mouths. Every year she’d trot out the same decorations and it was like seeing old friends.

Michigan Christmases are cold, and gramma’s house was always warm. She had this stairway (decorated in tinsel) that led up to the bedrooms no one used anymore, because her kids had all married. But it was never lonely there. Even though she lived alone, gramma was never by herself. There wasn’t one day one of us didn’t walk in without knocking.

If I’m ever really sad, I squeeze my eyes shut and pretend I’m at gramma’s. I can hear the cuckoo clock getting ready to go off over the Days of Our Lives’ theme song. I can smell the coffee and see the Cremora on her kitchen table. I can feel the knotty pine of her walls and the velvet of her couch.

But most of all I can feel the love.

When I feel blue and unloved, I squeeze my eyes shut and remember gramma’s house and I know I was loved.

And now I couldn’t find her damn Christmas tablecloth.

Did I lose it in the move? The thought of that panicked me. I have a lot of y’all’s grandmothers’ linens, because you all know I like that sort of thing. I dug through the peach linens and the yellow, the cream with baby-blue needlepoint napkins.

No tablecloth.

I’d stored all the Christmas tubs in my ancient garage. I walked back to that garage probably five times, hoping another tub was hidden in the shadows.

Finally, in utter desperation, I looked in the closets. One of the movers had filled one closet with boxes, a gesture that baffled me at the time and still does.

There? In the depths of a closet filled with empty suitcases and old papers? Was one of my Christmas tubs. And at the very top was gramma’s tablecloth. That busy, 1960s tablecloth.

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I don’t remember one present gramma ever got me for 20 Christmases, but it doesn’t matter. I remember the cozy house. I remember the joy. I remember the love. Gramma was Christmas.

And now she’s sort of here to celebrate it with me.

107 thoughts on “Knotty pining for a tablecloth

  1. Welcome back, June- you were missed. I just discovered today that you are back to not-blogging and I have a whole month of posts to catch up on. Better than any Netflix binge for sure…

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  2. That was such a wonderfully written post. I just love that you have such great memories or your grandma. I really don’t have many, my grandma lived so far away. Flo was not an easy person to get along with either. But one thing I remember about her is how she’d snort when she laughed.

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  3. Wow.
    I love your writing. May I copy this for my comp class? It is a great mentor text!

    I also remember my Grandma’s house. My mom grew up in a little town in Western MN–where the bump into South Dakota is–so we went and stayed there for visits. She had an old iron wood-burning stove in her basement that I used to play with–and pretend the whole basement was my “house.” I have a few things from that house that I treasure as well, because of her.
    Thank you for sharing your memories with us.

    Lovely post, lovely June!

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  4. Love this post….your gramma sounded so wonderful, I wish we could all have a piece of her. And her tablecloth. I love that you put decorations on your cabinet knobs! And I have the SAME SILVER big bell on my back doorknob that I use as an alarm in case really big burglars come in. Yes, really. Wonderful writing – and to think you stopped writing and we didn’t get to have All This?!?!?!?!

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  5. There’s not a single word you could add that could make me love this more. Right down to the spelling of “Gramma” which is how I ALWAYS spelled mine. It also made me miss the Purple Clover days a little. Truly lovely post, lovely June! Insert x’s, o’s and heart emojis here.

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  6. Lovely post, June! That tablecloth is even better than some fine lovely Irish lace thing – you only love it because of how wonderful your gramma and her home were. My great-grandmother’s house was the same for me. Some of my best childhood memories were formed there. When she passed away, I was fortunate enough to receive some of the family “jewels” – the cheapest looking plastic necklace you ever saw. It’s one of my most treasured pieces of jewelry.

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  7. When my mamaw passed two years ago, some huzzy family members went into her house the day after the funeral after many of us had gone home and cleaned out “the crap”. I’ve been bitter and weepy thinking of all the stuff they tossed including the Christmas decorations I always helped her set out. Your beautiful post reminded me that it isn’t about the stuff.

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  8. I loved this post. When I was getting the tablecloth out for Thanksgiving my millennial daughter rolled her eyes at me. I’m hoping this younger generation comes to appreciate the finer things of life.

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  9. Such a beautiful post you have given us! Christmas had a way of bringing back warm and cozy memories. It also brought a tear or two as I had a wonderful Grandmother much like yours. Thanks for the memories!

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  10. Thanks. Loved everything about this. People think that kids need all this stuff, but it’s so not true. The little rituals and the sense of comfort and familiarity and being truly loved mean everything.

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  11. What a lovely post, June! I love the tablecloth! I have one that is tulle with giant felt appliques and it’s the BOMB.
    One of my grandmothers died when I was very young so I don’t remember much about her, BUT my other grandmother is still alive and kicking! I have very warm tender feelings about her. My mom has grandparented like her, and I plan to do the same someday.

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  12. Aww, now I am blubbering over here. I know exactly the feelings you mean. I got that from my one Grandpa and Grandma’s house. The one that was wood and had a wood floor with crawl space underneath so when we ran through the house it thudded like a herd of elephants was coming through. And we NEVER GOT YELLED AT! Even my mama (who we secretly call Old Yeller due to the yelling) didn’t yell at that house.

    Thank you June for such a lovely post today. Now off to read and comment on all the earlier comments!

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  13. I have a similar tablecloth. It goes with nothing and I love it so! So happy you found yours. Nothing feels like love more than memories like that.

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  14. Lovely post, Coot. Makes me wish I had some Christmas memories of my grandmothers, but not really. One had nine children and 82 million grands, greats and great-greats, so I was lost in the hoards. The other only had eyes for her first two grandchildren, my older sister and a male cousin. The rest of us she tolerated. I do aim for my grandchildren to have better memories of me!

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  15. Sniff, sniff. Beautiful memories of Christmas at your grandma’s. My grandma had the silver tree with the rotating color wheel that I would die to have now! I adore your grandma’s tablecloth.

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    1. Oh my gosh! So did mine! And we would trick our younger cousins into touching it – the static electricity would like to kill you in your stocking feet!

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    2. WE had the silver tree as well, and with the color wheel. I loved pulling the branches out of their paper tubes, hearing that whoosh-y sound. That tree was so beautiful, and I wish I had one for myself.

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    3. When I was in grade school and the silver tree with the rotating color wheel were new, my next-door neighbor had one and we thought it was so fancy. Why, yes, I am old. Why do you ask?

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      1. I had two of those, a 4 ft one with color wheel and a 2 ft one with no color wheel. I just gave both to my cousin to sell online because she needs money. Not sure if young people these days are so enamored of them but man, I loved those trees since we had when I was a kid. The color wheel was magical.

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    4. I HAVE that silver tree and the color wheel! I got them on eBay. The branches all have their original wax paper covers to store them in. I love it!

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  16. My grandmother was a big fan of the lifesaver books as well! She liked sparkly things and always had copious amounts of tinsel on her tree! Her holiday candy consisted of the hard candy that had usually all melted together. If you tried to take a piece you ended up with the whole bowl full! We were convinced that she just put out the same candy year after year!
    Wonderful memories!

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  17. That was a beautiful post, June! I used to love getting those Lifesaver books too. I had one of those grandmas, my dad’s mom, who was always very busy, but always had time for us. When I need to imagine something that will calm me, I imagine her big back yard with a swing and her big St. Bernard dogs, and a clothesline with sheets and towels and Grandpa’s underwear and overalls blowing in the wind. I’m a grandmother now, and I hope my granddaughter grows up to have memories of me like you do of your gramma. I love this post.

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  18. Oh, June, that is an absolutely perfect post for this morning. I am 2,000 miles from home but my childhood memories have been stirring in my heart. I also had a grandma like that. You put it into words beautifully. You (and I) felt loved when you entered Grandma’s house. No question about it. I hope my grandsons have that feeling of love when they remember me in the future. And too, that is a lovely tablecloth. I’m so glad you found it.

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  19. Seriously one of the best posts you have written. Sounded exactly like my memories of my grandma right down to the knotty pine and leather reindeer.

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  20. OH!! And I love that leather reindeer. It’s perfect!

    Also, I meant to write lovely a** instead of ass. See, now I just thought of Sadie. Well not cause she’s an ass cause of course she’s not, far from it, it’s because she couldn’t bear to write a curse word so she said a** instead.

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  21. Love your tablecloth! We had lots of those special tablecloths, lace & linen & damask, as my mother was an older bride, my father was a career Army officer, we moved around a lot, and they entertained. At the foot of my bed is my mother’s Marine trunk (yes, she was a Marine during WWII), filled with cool stuff. Also have my grandmother’s 60s-vintage *PINK* patterned tablecloth as well as quilts, embroidered pillowcases and such. She lived in Missouri, so at Xmas, the NW Kansas aunt & uncle would drive across state, swing by in their Caddy, pick her, and head up to Ames for the holidays. I had her until I was a senior in college. She grew tasty tomatoes and went out to Colorado to go fly fishing. Lived to 88, so I have some nice memories being with her.

    Now it’s just my brother and me, no kids, so very different at the holidays, but still comfy and familiar. Nice post down memory lane!

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        1. Hey Sadie, my mother grew up in Chula, and my grandmother lived in Chillicothe. One cousin still lives there, the other by KC. My father was born in Essex, down near the boot heel, but grew up in Hot Springs, AR.

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      1. Arlene, I had two aunts/uncles that lived in Norton. My cousin is still there and owns the sporting goods store. Lots of dead animal heads on the walls. One uncle had an insurance agency, the other owned an office supplies store, and one aunt had a dress shop. The one set were the designated guardians, if something happened to our parents, which would have been a huge shock and lifestyle change for my brother and me.

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  22. I was a purveyor (OKAY HOARDER NOW SHUT UP AND LISTEN) of vintage tablecloths. Oh I loved them, had tubs and tubs of them, two full tubs of just Christmas. I really gotta say Joob, your tablecloth is the coolest Christmas one I’ve seen. It has it all: vivid colors, fat jolly Santa, BELLS and Christmas tree. I especially love the bells. I also love the big fat pretty bulbs and lit delicate candles on the tree. I love the feel of the old vintage linens that only came out once a year. They still feel crisp, iron up real nice and even if you don’t iron them, they wash up and keep folded up really well, ready to be thrown on a table for the next year. Oh man, I loved my vintage cloths.

    Lovely ass, Joob.

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    1. The first thing I do at any antique store, estate sale, even garage sales is head for the vintage linens. Table cloths, napkins, pillow cases! Handkerchiefs, doilies, all of it. Like a moth to a flame.
      And thank God I have an antique dining table so they fit properly.

      Amish, can you imagine the damage we could do together in one of those fine establishments?

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      1. We would be lethal! You forgot vintage towels, I LOVE vintage bath towels and kitchen towels and potholders and oh my gosh, we would be lethal! Especially to each other, runnin’ and pushin’ each other out of the way to get to the linen shelves/tables first and then we would just both stand there staring for a bit, taking it all in, before digging in! Clearly I need linen therapy.

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  23. Look at me unlurking! Such a fabulous post, June! It brought back memories of my grandparents. My in-laws and mom suck as grandparents. I can’t wait to be a grandparent so I can instill this kind of love and acceptance!

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  24. Crying now. I’m so glad you have such warm and loving memories of my mother. I have them too. I just got things out for Christmas this weekend and put my version of the tablecloth on my table. As always I told Harry that I’m always flooded with memories of your gramma, my Mum every time I put that tablecloth out. She bought them for me around 1965 or 66. I am pretty sure they were from the dime store downtown, Kresges most likely. I am so grateful you found it again. You were her favorite of all her grands. She loved them all, but you were her pride and joy.

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  25. This post was perfect. What a wonderful legacy your Gramma left. Not necessarily the tablecloth, but the feeling of self worth she gave you — that solid stable love. Priceless.

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  26. I was just taking a break from pulling out the Christmas boxes. Got my tacky mugs ready to go! Lovely and timely post, June. My grandparents lived far away but every Christmas there were tins of Greek cookies sent through the mail. I loved the bits of buttery powdered sugar under the kourambiedes.

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  27. So glad you found the tablecloth! The leather reindeer seems more fitting to a particular bar name than a holiday decoration?

    Lovely post, pretty Juan!

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  28. We’ve already started watching our holiday movies including It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street and Scrooge. Reading your not-blog today was just like reading another tug-at-your-heart Christmas story with the perfect ending of finding your grandmother’s tablecloth and all the memories it holds for you.

    A lovely, lovely post, Joob.

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  29. I was teary reading your lovely post, June.
    I still remember the scent of my grandma’s oatmeal cookies in her pantry. They were the best I’ve ever eaten.
    I’m glad you found your gramma’s tablecloth. It’s perfect.

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  30. Especially lovely a**, Joob.

    I tried to post this in yesterday’s comments but was not allowed, so here is my loving grandmother- and salad-related memory: Granny used to whip up a cakepanful of orange Jello, cottage cheese, probably cream, mandarin oranges (the canned ones) and pecans, and it was DELICIOUS, even if she did call it “congealed salad.”

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    1. I have been DYING to make The Other Copy Editor Who is Not The Poet’s jello “salad” that she made at Thanksgiving, even though if I make it I will eat it all and weigh 417 pounds.

      Also, from now on, all salad will be called “congealed salad.”

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      1. At our family gatherings it’s called old people salad. Named by my cousin when we were teenagers. Now we have become the old people who bring it.

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    2. Yes! A dear, dear aunt made that congealed “salad” and I still love it. But she didn’t add cream, nope, she added Cool Whip. I make it for myself about once a year. Yes, I’m fluffy.

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        1. A delicious Cool Whip salad recipe that was given to me by a coworker in the mid-70s has been part of my sister’s traditional holiday meals since then. Her family loves it and so do I.

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      1. Every Christmas Eve, my Gramma made a salad with little marshmallows, mandarin oranges, chunks of pineapple and shredded coconut mixed into a tub of Cool Whip. I LOVED that salad! I know some people call it Ambrosia Salad but I think the official name for it is “That Salad With the Little Marshmallows.”

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  31. I have Christmas pillow cases that look JUST like your tablecloth. Grandmothers are the best, from the cuckoo clock to apple pie to the Finger of Doom for swearing in front of her. Lifting a cheesy souvenir spoon from her collection in a salute to grammas everywhere.

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    1. My gramma totally had this roadrunner, as she had a son in Phoenix. So she went to visit him and stampeded to a souvenir shop, where she got this roadrunner whose wings opened up to reveal Indian people getting married. As Indian people did. Up inside a road runner. I seem to recall there were sparkles involved somewhere in said roadrunner, which is why I returned to it often.

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        1. It was a roadrunner figurine, like maybe palm-sized. And when you opened its wings…let me try to find one online. …Okay, I can’t find it. I SWEAR it existed. But this is like the McDonald’s hamburger harmonica I can never find that I swear existed.

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  32. This has me feeling all warm and weepy. I have so many wonderful memories of my grandparents – things that can take me back in a heartbeat to those moments of feeling cozy and safe. Like you, with my grandparents I knew without question that I was loved. I hope that my own grandchildren will remember me with the same fondness.

    Lovely post lovely June.

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  33. Anne in Saginaw, here. I loved this post ’cause it reminds me of many wonderful Christmases shared with my beloved grandparents. There is nothing quite like a grandma’s love. Nothing.

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  34. I absolutely love everything about this!! You’ve just said everything that I hope my grandchildren will say about me one of these days.

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  35. I love that table cloth, so glad you found it. I didn’t have a grandma or a grandpa. They didn’t make it for my birth and I’ve always been jealous of those that did/do. Lovely post June.

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  36. WONDERFUL post! I am in tears. Such wonderful memories and feelings of pure love. I remember how my grandmother’s house smelled. She always had tea cakes made and stored in a Tupperware container on the back porch (that was her huge refrigerator in the winter). I have my grandmother’s tablecloth (non-Christmas) that I cherish. I also have her Christmas gum drop tree. I am so going to get some gum drops today and get it out as part of my decorations. When we cleaned my grandmother’s house out, after she went to the nursing home, my cousin and I were going through an upstairs closet, that we were NEVER allowed to enter as kids, and when we found the gum drop tree we both gasped. And, we found many very nice gifts, still in the original boxes, stored away and never used. I said I would never be like that, it’s hard, but I want to use and enjoy everything I have, not just store it for someone else to have to deal with when I’m gone.
    Tee

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  37. What a perfect, wonderful post Coot. It made me feel loved, too.

    I’m not sure how I missed my shout out in yesterday’s post. I read the whole thing but my eyes must have glazed at the mention of my name. I have some photos of my holiday that I will send. A little too little too late.

    I’m at work now and I’m having a dreadful tummy ache. The stomach bug is making rounds. I’ve already been to the bathroom twice this morning- indelicately- and my biggest fear is having to use the restroom indelicately at work.

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  38. That made me feel warm and fuzzy. I have a tablecloth similar to that from my favorite Aunt.
    Thank you for starting my day so nostalgically!

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  39. Beautiful memories!!! What is it about Christmas that brings out all those feelings from childhood? I can still remember the feeling of sitting in front of our Christmas tree after school and watching TV. It’s hard to explain a feeling, but every year at this time I can remember it.

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