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Company's still coming

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

Company’s coming. I know that’s not news. It’s been the subject of this space plenty of times, and will for many more.

The cleaning has been ongoing for weeks already, and now the parts of the house that were cleaned first are, naturally, ready for dusting again.
There’s no good reason that I should want windows bright and carpets clean. That is by a husband’s reckoning.

“You act like it’s a big deal,” says the aforementioned husband. “It’s only Mary, and she’s only your daughter, after all.”

Only my Mary? Only my daughter? My daughter for whom I should set an example, like I did when she was about six months old?

We had wanted a son, had names for a boy, and I was disappointed at first that our planned family of five boys had started out with a girl. Still, I could model femininity by making sure my lipstick was unblemished and my heels two inches high like TV mothers pushing a vacuum cleaner.

Even I could see how silly it was for me, a dedicated tomboy, to model a girly appearance to a baby. Those heels were kicked back into the closet before I could trip over the sweeper.

I unearthed a memory this evening, a memory hidden in the linen closet upstairs. Stuff gets stuffed into my linen closet when I don’t know quite what else to do with it. Heavy blankets, so many sheets that Bed, Bath & Beyond would blush.

At least six weeks ago I bought two sets of sheets for the twin beds in Dave’s computer room. So many of his sheets and pillowcases were intractably bloodstained following his surgery for skin cancer that I wanted to put on all new sheets and not worry about grossing out company.

When we got ready to clean up the room for Mary’s visit I started looking for the sheets.

Gone. They were simply gone. What’s the logical place to put new sheets and pillowcases until you need them? Of course, the linen closet. I kept coming back to it, thinking I had overlooked them the several times we searched for them, and if we pulled a few items out, the new bedding would appear.

Not so. But once we had all that stuff out, it made sense to get rid of whatever we weren’t likely to use again, and have a place to put new sheets until they are needed. There was plenty of space available.

Funny how these things go. We have not finished the purge of the linen closet because I let myself get sidetracked by another finding: The embroidered kitchen towels and aprons.

Let me tell you about them.

I was desperate for a Christmas or birthday gifts for Grandma when the girls were small. She didn’t like us to “waste” time or money on her when she was in the process of giving her things away. Like most old people, she didn’t need anything, and couldn’t be persuaded that it was important her grandchildren learn to give gifts.

The girls were roughly 4 to 8 years old, and loved to draw pictures. I was not one for refrigerator art so their better pictures became drawer liners.
At the time I was interested in crewel embroidery and yearned to “do” something in that medium. Why I came up with embroidering kitchen linens, I do not know, but I spread out the girls’ stick figure drawings and selected the best to transfer to towels and a couple of gaudy aprons.

Can you still buy kitchen towels by the yard, cut to the desired length, and machine-hem them? I don’t recall what my source was, but they’re rough and tough, heavier than cotton, and very absorbent.

The figures are like those of any kids, special only to me, but I used a good mix of color and stitches. If there was a color that went “out of the lines,” it was embroidered in exactly the same way, so it seems to me to catch the artist’s eagerness to create.

An oft retold family outing is the subject of a drawing by Alice, our middle girl, about 6 at the time. We were at the entrance to Okefenokee State Park, walking close to the water, when we stopped to look at an alligator soaking up the sun. Of course the girls had been warned not to get near the ’gators, but Dave was walking on the landscape timbers edging the river.

“I think this alligator is dead,” says the father of my children. “He hasn’t breathed since we’ve been watching him.” And he edged closer to the head of the beast which certainly looked dead to me too.

He tossed a pinecone or a piece of a palm frond on the ’gator’s face – the exact missile is lost in foggy memory now – and in a split second the eyes and jaws opened with a hiss from the belly of the beast. The moment was caught, not on film, but in the mind of a child whose father leaped up and backwards, nearly falling in his haste to get to safety.

To this day, we debate whether the creature could have cleared the timber at water’s edge, or was it just for show.

Did I mention the importance of modeling behavior to children?

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