We had our new Christmas tablecloth for mere hours before it was doused in red wine — not once but multiple times.
Typically when I see a photo of a table set with holiday-specific dishes and linens, I roll my eyes and wonder who has so much money and room that they need dessert plates with Thanksgiving turkeys printed on them or napkins embroidered with evergreen trim.
But since we have young cats who love to climb and explore, we figured putting up a Christmas tree would be courting disaster. So I looked for alternative ways to make our place festive for a holiday party, and after buying a couple of evergreen wreaths, I made an out-of-character purchase of an off-white embroidered Christmas tablecloth.
I wasn’t fully committed to the idea. I didn’t bother to wash it or iron it so when I started to put out food, deep creases remained from the folds in its packaging. It was too long, too, as I’d miscalculated how long our table is with all the leaves added in, but I just shrugged and started piling baked goods and candles onto it.
Shortly after our guests started arriving, I walked out of the kitchen to find a friend on her hands and knees wiping something up … then saw mulled wine all over the tablecloth in a dark red pool like someone had been stabbed.
My first reaction was simply to laugh, “Well, now it’s a party.” An innocent bystander was mopping wine out of her pants, and she waved it off, “Good thing I’m wearing black.”
Then I saw another spill shortly there after. At least one more apparently happened when I wasn’t around, because as we cleared the table after everyone left, the evidence of an evening well spent was clear. Splatters, dribbles, puddles, you name it.
We soaked the tablecloth overnight but after a washing, the spots remain. And I’m totally fine with that.
I would rather have the kind of home where people have a good time, without fear of ruining overly precious belongings because gravity can be a challenge and we all have accidents, than to protect purchases in their pristine condition.
I’ve heard it’s good manners for a guest to offer to have your sofa cleaned after spilling red wine on it. I can’t imagine taking a friend up on that. We assume a certain amount of spills and breaks are just part of entertaining.
When we were newlyweds, John and I bought a second-hand dining table with some miles on it because we didn’t want to worry about ruining a fancy table surface with a hot dish or a cold glass. Shortly after we brought it home, a friend knocked a full martini over and the booze clouded the finish of a whole corner of our new table. Ah, we smiled, we did the right thing.
A few years later, we were using John’s mom’s Waterford crystal glasses at a dinner party and one chipped. I gasped. John loved his mom so much and she died long before John and I started dating. It made me heartsick to damage something that connected him to her. But John’s parents loved hosting parties, and John simply said, “She’d rather we use them with love than have them collect dust in the basement.”
If you’re hosting for Christmas (or any other time of year, for that matter), I’d offer John’s perspective when someone inevitably spills or breaks something or something else goes wrong: Would you rather enjoy time with people you care about or keep everything in tact?
Because now, our tablecloth isn’t a generic decoration I could have found at a rummage sale, it has a story to tell. I’ll very likely unfold it next year and remember the fun we had with our friends this year … then brace for a new wave of spills.
Related blog posts:
- Day 29: Life’s messy and that’s OK
- Cooking dinner for someone is a great way to deepen your relationship
- Pointers on hosting simple weekday suppers
- Resolve to build your social connections
- Make time for close relationships this week