Merry Christmas

Wendy Hornsby

 Merry Christmas to you, and to those you hold dear. If Christmas is not a holiday you celebrate, I wish for you, just the same, all the blessings of the season, the comfort of friends and family, and the opportunity to set aside the busyness of our lives so that we can spend time with those who are important to us. And, sure, we have to smooch some of the stinkers, too, but let those be lessons in humility and patience.

 Yesterday, as I prepared for our family Christmas feast, getting out special serving pieces, pressing the company table linens, finishing baking traditional treats, I thought so often of my mother, missing her and Dad. They loved nothing more than having the family and friends gather around their big dining room table for a sumptuous meal and great conversation. Mom would set a beautiful table with all the linens and dishes that she “saved for good,” meaning things she only used for special occasions.

 My mom was a Scotswoman of the Bruce clan. Though generous in many ways, her Scots thrift, it seemed to me, was primarily in those things that could bring her ordinary pleasure, like using the good china, which she loved, everyday.

 My parents sat down to dinner every night in the dining room on a table laid with a starched cloth and with complete place settings. The good china was kept “for good,” so the crockery didn’t always match, and the tablecloth and napkins—yes, we used napkin rings—generally showed some use. We were served a two-vegetable, meat and potatoes meal every evening and came to the table prepared to discuss the issues of the day—heaven help you if you didn’t have something useful to say about the issues of the day—without it ever occurring to anyone that things should, or could, be otherwise.

“For good,” can also mean “forever.” When I cleared out the family house after my dad passed away, I found that, though the dining room table was still covered with the same tired green cloth Dad had used since Mom died several years earlier, there were four pristine sets of beautiful damask tablecloths and matching napkins in the linen press in the china cabinet. The very sad part of that was that neither I nor my siblings had any use for those beautiful linens, and so they went to the charity shop where my parents had volunteered. It seemed to me that Mom missed out on many years of enjoyment of her own best things. Knowing her, it’s likely that she felt more comfortable using the mismatched, well worn stuff and keeping the rest “for good,” but I found it very sad that she had.  

This year, we lost some very dear friends, too young, too soon.  We were reminded that today is precious, tomorrow is a gift.  Don’t wait, don’t put off, right now is as good as it gets, so enjoy what you have. 

I know it’s a week early, but this is my New Year’s resolution: I will no longer save the best I have “for good.” I will use everyday the fine china, even though the platinum band isn’t dishwasher safe, and I won’t hand wash it. The beautiful linens? Stains are nothing more than relics of lovely meals with the people I love. Chips, dings, frayed edges, incomplete sets? So what? Put them on the table with wonderful food, lovely people, lively conversation. and bounteous love, and you will experience the good every day of your life. 

Happy Christmas to you, and a wonder-filled New Year.

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4 Responses

  1. I loved this post, Wendy. It reminded me of why I like you — and your writing — so much. You gently sprinkle wisdom as you spool the irresistible prose. I’m going to start putting Grandma’s Limoges on the table — AND in the dishwasher!

  2. Kirsten, Merry Christmas, and won’t dinner taste just that much better on Grandma’s Limoges?

  3. A lovely post, Wendy. and you bring back so many of my own memories, in particular, of my Scottish parents/grandparents–in my instance, of the Menzies clan. Always the thrift, the worries, the “get it right” attitude. Few hugs–they didn’t do that, but one could feel the fierce love inside. And yes, I now put out all the “good stuff.” Never mind something gets broken!

  4. Happy Christmad, Nancy.

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