Saturday, February 5, 2011

THROUGH A GLASS, DAMPLY

Internet photo
I happened upon the strangest memory yesterday---Tonja had written of some pretty family goblets that she rescued from her Mother’s yard sale, and I recognized them as the very ones which stood in our old pine hutch that Daddy built, for all of the life I can remember.

They are heavy and etched deep with flowers in that Lalique-haze, with crisp heads of wheat incised so that the pattern is a little bit sharp, somehow, as if the edges would injure a curious finger rubbing the grooves. We had eight of the lovely shining things, tall and graceful, and they were the “company” glasses. Mother had acquired two sets of good china somewhere during my teenage years (both of which are now behind me here in the cabinet to the “dining room suit”---shining white with silver rims, not quite a match, but close), and she did love to set “a pretty table.”

That was distinguished from “A GOOD Table,” which she did every day, kitchen proud, and mindful of turning out good meals and hot breads and a salad on a dainty little plate beside.

But the pretty of it---that usually fell to me, to keep the crisp cloths and napkins ironed, the silver polished, the china stacked with the little round flannels between each plate, the glasses gleaming in their neat rows in the glass-enclosed cabinets, free from any hint of dust or lint. And I did the table setting, as well, ranging round the yard for whatever flowers or berries were in season, flipping those heavy cloths like bedsheets onto the table JUST SO---always white or pink or embroidered in red, for the dining room was a sumptuous red cave, with high-low carpet and satiny drapes with swagged valances and golden cords, spoken for and made by the talented lady curtain-maker two-towns-over.


Even the panes in the big black lantern sconces on either side of the buffet had a hint of red, as did the velvety silver-cloth linings of the buffet drawers. All this luxurious redness gave the room a glow, especially under the big old courthouse chandelier---the whole house was done up "a little along" as my parents could manage, with the yard-sale and flea market and that Urban Archaeology stuff LONG before any of those ideas became popular, and it always looked lovely for company. I could get it all done up on Saturday night for Sunday Dinner, or the day before for a dinner party, and just close the door on all that finery, until time to serve the food.

But the glasses---they were sort of a family joke, never spoken of amongst company, for one of them had been so deeply etched into one of the wheat grains that it put a hole clear through the glass. You could see daylight out the other side. Not to mention that it leaked.

Anyone remember those “dribble glasses” so beloved of comic book characters or comedians on slapstick TV shows? You’d lift it to take a drink, and a hole in the side or the rim would send a sprinkle of liquid down your front, to general hilarity from all watchers. And that glass did exactly that.


And Mother would not hear of using a one mis-matched glass---Oh, No. It would spoil the whole effect, and how would THAT look? So the odd old glass fell to me, every time. I’d make sure to set it at my place, and turn it just right so the opening would be opposite my face---and I could only pour my water about three-quarters full, anyway, for fear of its seeping out onto that immaculate cloth.

I spent every fancy meal in a small agony of indecision and dread, hoping that this wouldn’t be the time that I sloshed or spilled, or had to grab a napkin and sop up the mess. That never happened, but I always, ALWAYS carried a folded paper towel to the table and hid it unobtrusively beneath my napkin, just in case. I sipped carefully, made conversation, saw that the roll basket was refilled and the food replenished from the kitchen, and poured tea all around, ever mindful of my own treacherous glass sitting there ready to drench me if I made a wrong move.
I can't remember what happened to those glasses, in the hectic weekend frenzy of packing and wrapping and cleaning when Daddy decided to sell the house; I remember wrapping them, but Sis says she didn't get them, so perhaps DS and DDIL have them at their house. I'll have to ask, and I probably should warn them.

3 comments:

Kim Shook said...

I love the picture that you paint of the dining room table, set just SO. I, too, love a beautiful table with pretty china and freshly pressed linens. I have everything I need to set that kind of table every night. And where do we eat? The family room on TV trays, almost always. sigh

racheld said...

Us, too, Sweetpea, most nights when it's just the two of us. We DO have lunch together at the table when we can, and even if it's just a sandwich, I put out the chips and pickles and several kinds of mustard.

I wanna be the person who is munching on that pizza at the coffeetable, before the delivery guy is even out of the drive, but no---I have to make a salad and get out plates and silverware, and pour everybody tea.

I'd LOVE to just flop that box down and grab a slice standing up, as I grabbed a can of Diet Coke and headed for my chair. WHAT IS IT with us who have been Keepers of the Nest for so long?

And that reminds me---we haven't ordered pizza in maybe a year . . .

Cape Coop said...

Rachel! For Kiddle's 21st birthday in October I gave her a half dozen matched vintage wine glasses, the old fashioned shape with wide flared mouths on a shallow bowl, hand blown and delicate, etched with swags and flowers. I had been collecting them for months- hunting in each thrift shop- rejecting dozens for flea bites and chips. She and her friends had her first cocktails in them on her birthday- I made a rum punch and used lollipops as the swizzle sticks- she didn't care for the taste of the alcoholic beverages, but adores her "grown up" glasses! And, they match the pattern of your photo- how sweet!