Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart


my mother-in-law’s tablecloth

lefkara laceMy whole family is nuts over housewares. Not just the women, either: my sons both asked for cast iron skillets. They also received teapots/ kettles/ and/or tea sets when they moved into apartments. When I went to my elder son’s last month, I took linens for the new house.

So it’s not just me, my sisters, my nieces. And in ‘sisters’ I also include both my sisters-in-law (who are like sisters to me). We LOVE linens, china, flatware, cast iron skillets, et al. Another reason I have waaay too much stuff!

But we use it, to be honest. Almost every day I make tea in the morning. Which means, as I’ve noted before, taking down one of the tea trays (the small one if I just want a mug, the larger one if I’m making a pot, the bigger wooden one if anyone is joining me) and spreading one of the many ‘tea cloths’ I have. Some are doilies my great-grandmother tatted; a few are singleton placemats I bought here & there. And depending on the time of year, I have some that are holidayish. Several have bees. :) 2011-05-30 13.42.57

I missed a step. :( We should have already put on the kettle, filled w/ freshly drawn cold water, to boil. There’s a rhythm to making tea, as you can see.

While the water’s boiling, and after you choose the cloth, the teapot, the cup, the creamer & sugar & spoon, and of course THE TEA, there’s just sitting down and breathing. Utterly peaceful, inhaling the fragrance of whatever tea you chose, and drinking it slowly. There’s a reason that tea is a fundamental Buddhist sacrament: it requires patience, attention, and commitment.

So what does all this have to do w/ beginner’s heart, you might ask?da vinci's last supperLet’s return to linens. My mother-in-law’s, to be precise. While we lived overseas, we bought my mother-in-law a Lefkara lace tablecloth. Made on the island of Cyprus, the lace traces its history backwards to Egypt. Legend says that the tablecloth in daVinci’s painting the Last Supper was made from Lefkara lace. Needless to say, we bought one for Mom, complete w/ napkins.

To my knowledge, she never used it once. Occasionally, when I sat the table for a holiday, I would ask her, What about the Lefkara lace? Want to use it? And the answer was always: No, we might get it dirty. Mom, it’s a TABLECLOTH. We wanted you to enjoy it.

But she never did. I inherited it packed in the same tissue it came wrapped in from Cyprus. Along with various lovely dish towels, and crystal used only very rarely (even though it matched what she eventually did use). lefkara lace 2Instead, she drank from CocaCola glasses, mostly. The cheap ones you buy at WalMart.

I love my mother-in-law dearly. She is a 2nd mother to me, truly. But this I don’t get. And my own parents were also Depression kids, & neither of them did this. Why have things we don’t use? One of the epiphanies of adulthood for me is that I don’t need things I can’t use. And if I don’t use it? There”s the converse: I don’t need it then, do I?

Can you see the difference between Mom’s beige lace — the natural colour Lefkara lace begins as — and my small piece? Mine is not only NOT ironed (sorry, Mom), but it’s white. Which is what happens to Lefkara lace when you use it — the natural linen bleaches to white. It’s supposed to.

Mom & meI can see sooo many analogies/ lessons here. :) Why keep our most beautiful things for ‘someday’…? Someday might just as well be NOW, folks.  Why aren’t we worthy of the love we offer our friends & family? Why shouldn’t our everyday lives be beautiful?

These days, my mother-in-law is too fragile — mentally & physically– for me to be able to explain how often I use the things she gave me. But every time I pull out a dishtowel we bought for her, or drink from the glasses she gave me, I think of her & Dad, and our many days at their house. And I’m grateful we bought her all we did, even if it only came back to us, doubly blessed by her ownership.



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