This is our third Christmas without my mom.

We’re having Christmas Eve at our house this year, and my sister is coming over. The other day she handed me my mom’s Christmas tablecloth, the white one with the embroidered trees on it. All folded up neat and compact like an American flag being passed on with great reverence to the family of a deceased soldier.

She asked me to use it on Christmas Eve.

“Of course,” I said and swallowed hard, and my kids asked, “Why?”

“Tradition,” she replied.

And with just a word she gathered a lifetime of memories and transferred them into my arms.

I ironed the tablecloth today. Steamed and pressed it right on the squeaky ironing board that used to be my mom’s. The one with the blue cover with green polka dots. And I wonder if there’s a lot of blue and green in heaven, because those were her favorite colors.

tableclothAs the hot metal slid over the white cloth, I saw the stories, forever stained right there into the fabric. The purple wax stains from the advent candles, the ones we lit every Sunday in December. And a pink candle stain, for that third week, the week of joy. I always thought it was strange that three candles were purple and only one was pink, and I find myself wondering still, even as I iron.

Normally when I see stains on clothes that have found their way to the ironing board, I avoid them at all costs, careful not to let the heat sear the stain into the fabric and deem it irremovable.

But not this time.

This time I find myself purposely pressing harder where the yellowed oil stains color the white, and I smile as I think about the sputtering oil in the fondue pots that got too hot and popped right over the edge. And year after year we lit cans of Sterno and argued over which color fondue sticks we got to have, and then forgot which sticks were ours.

I iron over the purple wax spots and wonder where that wreath is now, and think about how today we’d be so close to lighting that center white candle.

But we’re still waiting.

But my mom, she’s right there in the middle of it all, right in the center of the circle, where the pure white candle is always lit.

She doesn’t have to wait anymore.

A tear slips off my cheek and lands on the tablecloth, and I just iron over it, adding a salty stain to the story.

And I think about what it must be like to be in a place where there are no stains, no blemishes, no wrinkles to be ironed out.

This Christmas Eve, we’ll add to the stains and the story of the tablecloth, and we’ll light the candles, and we’ll wait.

We’ll wait for the newborn King to come again and carry us home, “without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish.”

Come Lord Jesus, come.

 

9 thoughts on “the story of a tablecloth on christmas eve

  1. Thank you for sharing, Kate! This will be the third Christmas without my mother, too…that first sentence pulled me into your story of the tablecloth…precious memories! I think of my mother often, too, when I look at some of the things she left behind; some that I cherish and others that reside with one of my three children. And, when I look at that last picture of the family, Dec. 2010 when the family celebrated her 80th birthday at the nursing home where she lived; her home since she couldn’t be home…and seeing my 3 1/2 year old grandson point to her in the picture and say “that’s granny” – because my children have that picture displayed and remind the boys who it is and they remember. Yes, precious memories – and we share them throughout the years to continue remembering!

    May you and your family have a wonderful holiday…thank you for sharing through the Five Minute Friday posts. Looking forward to a new year with you and the other bloggers!

    God’s blessings on you and yours!

  2. oh my dear sister… this is so true and so sweet… sweet in the eternal way that takes every good thing we know here and distills it and wraps it ’round our hearts and for just a little minute, pulls back the curtain and reveals what is to come… as it is so rarely clearly revealed through this world of waiting. thank you…

  3. Beautifully said. I have been thinking of traditions and memories of my parents. I carefully handled mom’s antique ornaments—she would laugh at the thought of them being collector items. She scrimped and gradually bought all gold ornaments–beautifully intricate. Now her gold mixes with her old and my santas and angels. Quite a mix on my tree! Most of her old ornaments are in two separate bowls as centerpieces. They are lovely reminders of a lovely lady who has been gone for 16 years. I still miss her much.

  4. What a beautiful memory to record. I love the vintage look of the tablecloth because my mom has the same type of things. I just love that you can create the tradition with your kids and one day, they will have the tablecloth and read this. Thank you for continuing on five minute Friday. I got back on my writing journey about 4 years ago. It has been so refreshing and these prompts help me right along. http://bellesbazaar-heather.blogspot.com

  5. I waited until things slowed down to read this one. I treasured each word. The holidays can be so bittersweet as we remember those who’ve gone before us. You captured the emotion well!

  6. Kate – I stopped by to wish you a Merry Christmas and found these beautiful words. Thank you.

    Yes- your mom is at the center – with Christ – and is cheering you on as you wait with stains, wrinkles, and memories. What a blessing to have such a legacy to unfold and wrap around yourself. Thanks for sharing these encouraging words and the reminder to make sure our lives leave marks that can be celebrated, cherished, – and missed.

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