I know it looks like it’s just a tablecloth and for all intents and purposes it is. You pull it out of your linen closet or wherever you keep it, put it on the table to either protect it or make it look nice, load it up with dishes, silverware, food and beverages, then either throw it away if it’s disposable or throw it into the washing machine. And the cycle repeats itself. It’s just a tablecloth. Or is it?
Some tablecloths evoke strong memories. Maybe it’s the traditional one saved for holiday meals. When you pull it out or see it on the table it reminds you of all the holiday meals – happy or not – it held for your family and friends. Maybe it’s a silly paper one with balloons and cakes on it like you buy for your kids birthdays every year – disposable because it’s for kids after all! Maybe it’s the vinyl one you put on the picnic table, or the lace one from your grandmother, or the orange one from Halloween. There are lots of reasons to use tablecloths and there are millions of memories surrounding them.
For instance; a few years ago a friend and I were driving to a town about an hour south of us to attend one of our cult meetings. (No it’s not really a cult. I just like to tease you!) I was privileged to be co-chairman of a group within the cult and we were having a meeting to honor one of our group members. We had an “outfit” that identified us as part of the group – a pink top and skirt.
About 2/3 of the way to the meeting – in terrible rush hour traffic and with snow beginning to fall – this horrible feeling washed over me and I asked my friend to look in the back seat and tell me my skirt was there. She leaned over and looked through everything there and said she didn’t see it. I explained to her that her answer was not acceptable, but she still couldn’t find the skirt.
I was coming straight from work and had pants on. We don’t usually wear pants in our cult meetings (very old-fashioned and I would love to change it, but that’s not so easy). However, I didn’t panic. I figured I could borrow a skirt from someone who lived nearby when we arrived at our meeting place. We had plenty of time.
Unfortunately, no one had an extra skirt that night and by this time it was snowing so hard no one wanted to go home and get me one. Everyone agreed that, considering the circumstances, it would be perfectly acceptable for me to wear my pants with my beautiful beaded pink top. So I went to downstairs to change into this unlikely outfit. As I walked through the dining hall on my way to the restroom, I noticed all the tables were very nicely set with white paper table cloths. Hmmmmmmmmm!
I asked one of the people setting up the tables if they had an extra table cloth and some safety pins and she told me to just take one off of one of the tables and she gathered about 6 safety pins of various sizes for me. Off I ran to the changing room.
Now the table cloth was designed for a 6 foot banquet table, so it required some finagling on my part. It wrapped around me about 2 ½ times and it was about a foot too long so I had to fold it over at the waist. I carefully pinned myself into my skirt and quickly discovered I needed to allow extra room at the bottom so I could actually move my legs versus waddling like a duck. After a few adjustments, I put on my pink top, looked at myself in the mirror, laughed, sighed and shook my head, and then I headed upstairs. I was quite pleased. After all, it had a plastic backing so I would be well protected from spills during refreshments later.
By this time everyone knew I was skirtless, but they weren’t prepared for my solution and I was greeted by gales of laughter and many nods of approval by those who knew me. Those who didn’t know me just looked at me as if I was demented. The evening went off without further problems and we had a lovely time. It was the subject of many conversations from then on.
Several months later, it was my turn to be honored. When my group of pink ladies got up to be escorted and introduced, they all whipped out tablecloths and wrapped them around their skirts. There were 160 people there and they all erupted in laughter and applause. That was in May of 2001 and I still get teased about forgetting my skirt and wearing a tablecloth.
Sometimes it’s not JUST a tablecloth!