Below is a piece of writing that, originally, I sent to a member of my family circle. I post it here as a kind of holiday card, wishing you all the best-- now and in the coming year
The Secret Life of Napkins
I learned from my mother to mix and match expensive and cheap table settings. She had a great attitude about setting the table with nice things and making sure we used them. So she would haunt thrift stores before it was popular to do so. She would find wonderful table cloths and take them home and bleach them sterile. So we always ate our everyday dinners on them. Sometimes the linens were way better than the food we could afford. But the white table cloths were a wonderful touch. At holiday time she would put out the really really good crystal--the stemware that was given to her at her wedding shower. I loved how the crystal shone and the tinging sound it made when she pinged it to show us "this how you know it's good crystal." And she never --and I mean never--got upset when we broke a piece of it. Which we always did. At the end of her life, there was just one glass left out of a big--I want to say--100 piece set. I always loved my mother for that.
My mother washed the cotton napkins and ironed them wet. That's what gives the napkins that crisp look and feel. I always iron them just after I wash them so then I don't have to think about it later when I set the table.
My mother did not know how to set a formal table--that is, no one told her the precise placing of forks, knives and spoons. How far the plate should be from the edge. That the knife blade should always point outward. All this I had to learn from my 8th grade Home Economics teacher. And I don't know if my mother knew about fine china dinnerware--names like Rosenthal and such. This I had to learn that from my friends years after I left home.
But my mother did know that life is to be lived, that glass--and people--can break. And-even so-- it is all going to be okay--really okay. That love makes the feast. That gifts of imagination are often the very best. That is there no one correct way to do any of this.
This is longer than I thought it would be. If my mother were here--if she could speak to you--she would tell you that it is the hand that sets the table --not the things on the table--that's important. She would say: Give love. Receive Love. Be joyful.
She would tell you that's all that is ever needed.