Friday, June 8, 2012

Tablecloth for the End of the World

 Aesthetic sensitivity is a condition I inherited from both sides of my family. My mother’s genes must have carried it from her French forebears who fled during the French Revolution to save their heads. My father’s side has a long string of poets, artists and dreamers. All that genetic bric-a-brac washed up in me and I’m not sure if it’s a gift or an affliction.

A case in point is French table linens. I love to set a beautiful table and have collected a number of gorgeous tablecloths to underpin everything else--the antique plates, the old silverware, the crystal glasses. I particularly love a couple of lines of linens (actually cottons) designed by French designers but made in India, by hand, by the block printing method. These feature charming vegetal motifs or seashells or birds, all in somewhat primitive graphics and with the uneven coloration that attends block printing.

As the seasons change, I change my interior décor and one aspect of that is the tablecloths I strew about on every possible surface. This time of year, with the heat of summer coming on, cotton cloths replace the antique Kashmiri wool challis paisley shawls that I drape on tables and that cleverly hide tottering piles of books that are breeding more books under there, against my best impulses to the contrary. These books necessitate large cloths that reach the floor, a shape not all that easy to come by. Unless, of course, I delve into the websites featuring French table linens. There, I find my favorite block printed styles in an abundance of shapes, sizes, color ways and designs.

And a concomitant lust arises. The family genes assert themselves. How can I possibly be expected to choose between the blue and white birds and the flower-strewn, ravishingly rose pink “Jardin?” Or the blue and white seashells and the pale green and vermillion coral branches studded with cowries? It’s just not fair to present so many temptations! I mentally tally my recent credit card purchases. I calculate my available disposable income.

Eventually, I will settle down, break out the blue and white Indian block printed cotton bedspread I use every year, and press into service the French table linens already in my collection. Summer will come and the house will look cool and collected, without any new additions.

Then fall will arrive and the tables will start to look flimsily clad, with their knees knocking together in the chill. Now, for this particular juncture I’ve spotted a darling block printed cloth called “Winter Garden” with garlands of fruits and flowers. It would look lovely layered over a pink and cream paisley shawl. It could take me right through Christmas.

Then I remember that we may not make it to Christmas, this year. According to varying reports, we are going to experience either the Apocalypse or Ascension. Either way, tablecloths will probably not be required for the occasion. Here’s where the family affliction kicks in and aesthetic madness takes over. Despite the dire or transcendent predictions, I still want to dress my house for that coming season. I think Winter Garden would make the perfect tablecloth for the End of the World.

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