Lynne Palazzi Unravels The Story Of Her Mother's Treasured Tablecloth

Simple Tablecloth Becomes Family Heirloom After 30 Years Of Dinner Parties

The importance of leaving a legacy for your loved ones is about more than just the money in the bank and the "stuff" you leave behind. Too often, we don't know the significance of the heirlooms we inherit -- the old album full of photos, old watches, jewelry and knickknacks. It is the telling of your stories that creates sentimental value in a personal item and makes that item a family heirloom.

This was recently made very clear in Lynne Palazzi's piece from the November issue of Country Living magazine. Palazzi traces the evolution of her mother's ongoing project that has become an invaluable heirloom for her family. Her mother's tablecloth, and the countless hours she put into it, had finally grown into a story well worth telling, Palazzi says.

In 1979, when my mother was 53, she began a project that had real staying power. She bought a white flat bedsheet, cut it to fit our oval dining table, and added a girly flourish--a border of lace. With that, the sheet became a tablecloth. Anyone who joined us for dinner would sign their names and maybe even write a message. Later, Mom embroidered over the signatures and sentiments, creating a permanent record of every dinner party or holiday meal shared in our Pennsylvania home.

With humor and affection, Palazzi describes her mother as the editor-in-chief as she asks all dinner guests to write in cursive script and corrects grammar when necessary. To keep track of all guests, her mother stitched a key system along the fabrics' edge and each date is assigned a color.

Just as her monogram dominates the tablecloth, my mother is unquestionably its editor-in-chief. Before visitors sign, she asks that they please write in cursive—block letters require too much stopping and starting as she stitches. She corrects grammar (when my grandmother wrote, "The best meals in town is on this table," Mom lovingly changed the verb to "are") and clips long-winded dedications (one friend penned a "roses are red" poem, and my mom nixed all but one line: "Vivian is sweet"). At times, prudishness has led her to tame racy comments: After Uncle Gene signed above Aunt Ethel, he drew an arrow to her name and wrote, "I'm still on top of my wife." In Mom's G-rated world, Uncle Gene remains on top of his life. My brother-in-law sketched a turkey one Thanksgiving; later, Mom added lines of steam rising from it. A dentist friend drew a tooth; Mom gave it a cavity.

With Thanksgiving just a couple weeks away, it's the perfect time of year for all of us to reminisce about, share and start new family traditions. Does your family have a favorite tradition or heirloom? Let us know in the comments section below!

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