Ironing 1940’s-era napkins

May 17, 2010

The  cloth napkins were part of a treasure trove that I unearthed from David’s mother’s house after her death.  The ones that I was ironing today were in pristine condition when I found them, so I assumed they had never been used by her…. wedding gifts, perhaps?  That’s my guess, anyway.

I wonder if all no-nonsense, very practical, middle class moms of boomers allowed themselves this one luxury of saving, since I can remember my own mother putting  one special thing aside also.  Her keepsake was a  nightgown that was “too good to use for every day.”  She kept it tucked away in one of her drawers for “going away.”  And I actually do remember seeing her wear it on the only overnight trip that I recall us taking.  It was the one  to Expo ’67, the World’s Fair in Montreal.  There wasn’t a lot of extra money on our small farm in the 60’s, so that trip must’ve been the one that she’d been waiting for.  She died in ’69, so I’m glad she got to wear it.

Today, as I was ironing the cloth napkins that had been “Grandma’s,” I couldn’t stop my brain from continuing to go back.  I thought about how the napkins fit well with the Simply Bed & Bread feel of cozy warmth and home that is evoked as one walks in the door here.  I thought about how I’m glad that it is this way.   An image of Ward and June came to mind; it is more or less the same sort of era. 

I suppose no one ever has a Leave It To Beaver Cleaver  family.  It might seem like it as we look out of our own front doors, but I believe it’s much more elusive than outward appearances suggest.   Mr. and Mrs. Ward Cleaver had some seemingly big problems to solve on that show, but they were wisely, beautifully and succinctly resolved in each 30 minute episode.  It was easy for the viewer to get sucked into the illusion, as he could imagine the grown-up versions of Wally and Beaver as happy, at-ease adults, (each comfortable in his own skin because of the sensitive upbringing he enjoyed),  and any Cleaver family reunion snapshot as a Hallmark greeting card.   But in the real deal of every day relationships, they’re more complicated than 30 minute segments allow, and they don’t iron out as easily as a set of 1940’s-era cloth napkins. 

I have complete sets of these lovely linens, and I do enjoy the part that I can play in their preservation and their use.  I love it that they’re keepsakes, but that  have become an everyday item here.  There is such a comfort and a beauty in the loveliness of the “every day” — just like with families, even if things do get wrinkled sometimes.

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Location, Location, Location.

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