Tuesday’s Child’s Family Heirlooms: Mom’s Signature Tablecloth

When I added this heirloom to my list I wasn’t sure it still existed. During my childhood my Dad was in the Air Force and we had to move more than a half a dozen times. Things were lost along the way.

While talking to her on the phone I asked my Mom if she had “the tablecloth.” Less than a half hour later she called me back to say she’d found it. She was disappointed to find a few spots that looked like coffee stains on it. Before she dropped it off she washed and ironed it. Not all the spots came out but were a lot lighter than before she washed it.

If we get a bit of sun before I return it to her I’ll try sprinkling salt and squeezing lemon juice on the stains and placing the tablecloth on the grass and letting the sun “bleach out” the stains. Even if the trick doesn’t work, the tablecloth is a beautiful and unique treasure.

Before my mother married my father she worked for an American family in Luxembourg and even went with them to England when they were transferred. While living with them she saw a similar tablecloth owned by the family with signatures of the guests who visited their home.

1957tableclothtinyWhen my parents married in 1957 Mom laid out a white tablecloth for their wedding guests to sign with the date and where they were from. The bride’s mother Marcelle; grandfather Joseph; paternal aunt Marie; paternal uncle Jean Pierre; maternal aunt Lucie; cousin Yvonne, her husband François and his mother;  Yvonne’s two children; and the bride and groom’s witnesses signed the tablecloth on their wedding day. The guests came from Echternach and Schifflange in Luxembourg, from Strasbourg and Ittersviller in France, and from Bitburg in Germany.

These are the signatures of the twelve guests. After the wedding Mom embroidered all the signatures.

1957collagetinyFive months later Dad was transferred back to the States and Mom got to meet Dad’s family in West Virginia for the first time.

Out came the tablecloth for everyone to sign. Dad’s mother Myrtle and father Fred; two of his three sisters; his brothers; a sister-in-law; three nieces; a paternal uncle, his wife, their son and daughter-in-law; and cousin Eugene.1957-08-04 CollagetinyIt is interesting to see the date format used by the European signers (D-M-Y) and the America signers (M-D-Y). A few more signatures of very close friends were added through the years.

In 1962 Dad got orders for France. We visited the family in West Virginia before crossing the ocean. There was a new family member, my oldest cousin’s husband, and out came the tablecloth for his signature. My cousin had signed it in 1957 and added her new “alias” under her first signature.

And little Cathy, nearly 5 years old, took advantage of day and signed her name.

cathytiny © 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

Jeanne Bryan Insalaco of Everyone Has A Story suggested doing posts on heirlooms in a discussion in the Genealogy Bloggers Facebook group and wrote Now Where Did I Put That? Several bloggers have taken her up on the challenge to write about their heirlooms and we hope more will follow our lead.

Other bloggers doing Family Heirloom stories:

Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks theme for 2015 Week 24 was Heirlooms. Visit her 52 Ancestors Challenge 2015: Week 24 Recap for the links to more posts in the comments.

Author: Cathy Meder-Dempsey

When I’m not doing genealogy and blogging, I spend time riding my racing bike with my husband through the wonderful Luxembourg countryside.

16 thoughts on “Tuesday’s Child’s Family Heirlooms: Mom’s Signature Tablecloth”

  1. A beautiful and priceless heirloom and a wonderful tradition. But the stains are only memories of the journey. When my grandmother Hortense Impens Donckers left Belgium in 1920 with her 9 month old son and pregnant with my mother to join her husband Honore in America she brought along a crocheted bedspread she was working on to pass the time on the boat. As the story goes, while working on the bedspread she stopped to eat an apple and dropped it on her work. She didn’t notice it then, but the apple left a brown stain that appeared after a few days. That stain remains today on a beautiful handmade work of art that I have to remind me of her courage and determination to travel alone to meet her husband and begin a new and better life for her family. Treasure even the stains for they too tell a story.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love this! We have a similar tradition for Thanksgiving- but we pull the tablecloth out every Thanksgiving & I haven’t embroidered the names. Also being an Air Force family, it is a treasure to remember the various friends, family, & places we’ve spent Thanksgiving over the years. Thank you for sharing! Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jessica. Merry Christmas to you and yours.
      I’m sure the first two trips across the Atlantic for the tablecloth were made in Mom’s suitcase. Later it probably went with the household goods and it’s a miracle it didn’t get lost on one of the moves.


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