taken from a letter i just sent out to cousins, old friends from childhood days who knew my family, and some current friends.
My mother's last christmas alive was in 1995. We gathered at this table, as family did when it was in my tiny Carolina hometown for many years. I've not had it opened and decorated, with Aunt Orpha's Haviland china on it in all these years since. For one thing, the only family who's been able to come since her death has been a much loved third cousin, but not at Christmas. For another thing, for so many years I was too sick to even think about doing this. So...this year, my husband's mom and her husband are coming from a their home an hour away for dinner. I asked my husband to lift the leafs, as the room is small, as you can see, and the table generally stays folded down. Those are mother's mats, table clothes and napkin holders.
Family will recognize the old chocolate set that sat in the Dillard household when mother was a little girl, with her sister, Orpha, and brothers, Harry, Archer, Baylis, and Herman. Her great grandparents, W.B. and Ann Dickson, lived with the family and also gathered in these same chairs , but this is a smaller table. The original table of my mother's childhood was too big for mother to keep. The smaller sideboard is the Dillard one (my mother's family) and the larger one, with the chocolate set, came from my father's grandparents and is hand pegged.
So, ten years later, I'll have Christmas at this table again. Yes, I'll think of my parents. I'll think of my Aunt Orpha and Uncle Jim who often gathered there when I was growing up. I'll think of my cousins Marion, Ginny and Lisa, of Sam, my cousin, Agnes, my mother's first cousin of Uncle Herman and his family, of Archer Jr., my mother's nephew, Ruth, his wife, and their family, though I didn't get a chance to share many meals in Pageland with them since they were close enough to visit summers after I'd left home for college and graduate school. The last time the largest group of family was around the table was when my father died the day after Christmas in 1986. The dining room was packed with people. But of all these things, I'll think most of all of my good luck in being born into a family that was close knit, loved well and took care of its own.
For friends and readers of this blog who don't know me, this is an event that may not register in meaning for you. You had no way to know my family but, if you look closely, I feel sure that you'll their memories living on in this space.
Lastly, this is my 'hurricane' cat, Sabrina, taking a nap at the foot of the bed while I put the table setting together.