The Tales the Linens Told

I recently gave an artist talk. One of the questions that I had been given in preparation was  “what inspires you to create? “

It  not a simple answer. Or maybe it is. 

Everything inspires me.

 I told that to my accountant, said that an artist should be able to deduct all life expenses on their taxes.  He looked at me a little oddly and laughed - while shaking is head “no”.  I was serious.

Most of my life is run at breakneck speed. I want to do all and feel all and cram all into my reservoir of life experiences.   I  race through the day to get to the next thing, my life scheduled into 30 minute segments.  And then I freak out and scream STOP....  put the brakes on and  S L O W  DOWN,  BE IN THE M O M E N T.    FEEL.     SMELL.     HEAR .  TOUCH.    TASTE.

And when I do that, the inspiration reveals itself.  Stories  resonate in between the folds of the cloth, or the slide of an iron. Stories bought to life by little mundane objects that we give no thought to in our busy lives, stories about people who should not be forgotten.....

11/7  Today’s dryer load was full of kitchen towels and washing cloths, the ivory table cloth, and a pile of napkins. As I methodically folded the napkins, I made a conscious decision to do it mindfully,  laying each one flat, folding it once, hand - creasing, caressing the napkin flat,  folding again. And as I stroked them smooth, feeling the different textures and examining their colors and patterns, I thought about where they came from and about all the hands and mouths that used them.

One pair of cheery cotton multi-colored checkered napkins reminded me that they came wrapped with two candles from Julie many summers ago at a gathering.  I can still picture the candles, the buzzing cicadas, and the glasses of red wine.

One set of linen napkins that sang kelly green and bright yellow retro flowers, came from Outback Antiques, a local store that I have visited for the past 25 years. They reminded me that I have not been there for a very long time.  Time to visit Anne...and look for treasure.

 The classic sateen linen napkins and tablecloths came from #1.5’s mother.  She was an intense woman, and I am sure I never measured up to her expectations. I have used them for the past 20 years,  ambivalent about keeping them after I left her son...

The simply flowered linens were given to me at my bridal shower to #1. The couple who gave them to me has long since split up, and the memories of another time are balled  up and buried deep within the dryer lint.

The creme napkins with little yellow flowers carefully embroidered in some third world country came from Barbara. I was single with two babies then; a time I did not need a napkin because any food upon my lips was part of a frugal meal.

When I finished folding the napkins, I hugged them to my chest, feeling the fading warmth of the dryer, smelling a hint of lavender before I  laid them to rest in the cherry-wood cabinet that once belonged to a great aunt, muffling their stories until the next time......


Gwen said…
I loved this little story, Patti, so rich in memories, how can we part with such things?
Anonymous said…
a touching storyPatti. Today I too cleaned and moved a cabinet full of linens and wine glasses and serving bowls ...I quickly grabbed the pile of many napkins and crammed them into their new home;the drawer of a large, heavy armoire I neither loved nor cherished but thankful for the friend who gave it to me as well as the amount of "things" I could hide in there. The wine glasses were a mixture of thin beautiful balloons - a reminder of the rich red wines I would lose myself in. The taller ones of summer crisp whites at dusk. And there were the stragglers. maybe 4 in total. Anomalies with no other matches - their counter parts either missing or broken over the years. I threw those in to the garbage and surveyed a life time spent and lost in a bottle. Wishing to smash them all.

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