The first of several sketches about starched linen.
Now that my dining room table is my office, perhaps for the rest of my career,
I cleared out the cheerful tablecloths from the cupboard. Thanksgiving. My birthday. Graduations. Wine resistant yet still faded grape birthmarks on some, near where my husband, the host and primary pourer, would sit and share.
Now I want to see as much wood as possible, under stacks and piles of books and files. But under my sleek space grey computer I need a cloth, some protective layer, as much to cradle my challenged RSI wrists as to prevent scratches on the table. As much to give some outline and boundary to my workspace even as I struggle to do that for my days.
In my closet, still and folded, I find a square of antique French linen. White and starched, with a tri-part red stripe at the edge, right at my rib cage as I pull close to the table to work. Cross-stitched initials in the left corner that are not mine. Difficult to read. I realize I was reading it upside down. Now it’s clear. DP.
The person I bought this from got it at a brocante in Normandy. One hundred years old, she said. I’d hidden it away until I had some worthy use. A picnic lunch in our garden. A base for a chilled metal urn full of champagne bottles, for a party that was supposed to happen last week.
But now? Now? Now it’s the witness to my work. I will not fuss over the workmanlike and reassuring white square. I don’t dread the ink blot that will surely come, the coffee drips, and odd bits of crumbs from the afternoon cookies that have now entered my life. This cloth survived one pandemic, perhaps with an earthenware bowl of brown eggs resting on it. Perhaps to cover dough waiting for its time to be shaped into sustenance. Nothing fancier. There’s no edging, no hint of lace here.
Just like there’s no such things on me.
The cloth and my computer on a big wooden table. This is my workspace, my reality. Yesterday, I ordered more antique French cloths. You will ask why – yes, it’s true I only have one table and one computer. But I somehow want a small pile in the cupboard. A small sign of abundance, of expanded possibility.