I Believe in Red Tablecloths

Janice - Greenwood, Indiana
Entered on June 18, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: family, pleasure
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I believe in red tablecloths. Red makes me happy, even though I did not always know that. Red is the color of the life I value most – one filled with warmth, spirit, passion. Red invites togetherness. People talk to each other in the presence of red.

At the time of our marriage, my husband and I were given a large red cotton tablecloth with a cheerfully scalloped edge. It stayed in a drawer for months, but then came to mind as exactly the right festive touch to cover the hand-me-down kitchen table at Christmas. When Valentine’s Day rolled around, the red tablecloth magically turned an ordinary Sunday night supper into a romantic dinner for two.

Red has become the color of celebration at our house. Somewhere in the middle years, the red tablecloth became an expectation whenever a family party was in order. The birthday meal most often requested by our kids was spaghetti with meat sauce, always served with a faded red and white checkered luncheon cloth casually spread over the solid red one. We have never tired of that Italian theme which invariably brings everyone into the kitchen at once to toss the green salad, steam the pasta, and pour the wine. Red figures in every patriotic holiday we observe, and the red tablecloth has complemented platters of golden yellow corn on the picnic table just as agreeably as it has set off the gleaming silver of my mother-in-law’s chafing dish on the dining room table. And however coincidental it is, the high school and college colors of both of our children include a shade of red. The red tablecloth has served in honor of admissions, awards, and graduations, and its sentimental worth has multiplied more rapidly with each of those milestones.

I believe that celebrating small, personal triumphs as often as they occur in no way diminishes the significance or pleasure we take in celebrating more traditional and public ones. If the red tablecloth now serves as a kind of sign, then it is the sign I have come to offer to my family as part of saying, “I celebrate you. I celebrate us. You have done well. Today is important.” The red tablecloth and the food served upon it are also my applause and desire to honor experiences that are important to each member of my family.

These days, it takes some organization to coordinate occasions for which the red tablecloth is appropriate. Family is more scattered and some less able to participate fully in the rites of celebration. As Valentine’s Day approaches, my husband and I find that after many years of larger gatherings, we will spend the evening of that day alone together. The red tablecloth was not pressed with a hot iron this year after the Christmas holidays; I will need to do that. If I use candles on the table, the color will become a more vibrant red, the color of my heart. It is worth the effort.