My Oma had the perfect grandmotherly kitchen - copper tins hung on a painted-brick wall, multiple patterns of dishes and silverware sat in the cupboards and drawers, a silver ice bucket on the counter contained a seemingly endless supply of pretzels, and the whole place either smelled like slow-roasted beef and carrots or cinnamon and butter, depending on the day. Everything about it welcomed you from the moment you stepped in it.
I remember sitting at her kitchen table in an olive-green vinyl chair whose back and arms formed a sort of padded half-circle. Kind of like a hug. Her table was often covered with an old-fashioned tablecloth, but there's one in particular I have thought about a lot since those days. It was white with bright daisies on it. It was very cute and very Oma - daisies were her favorite flower and the motif matched her kitchen. In between the printed daisies were hand-embroidered names, all stitched by her hand. I don't know when she started this tradition, but for years when guests came for coffee or dinner, rather than have people sign a guestbook, she handed them a pen and had them sign the tablecloth. Later she would carefully embroider over the pen marks and create a more permanent history of her visitors. There seemed to be hundreds of them. Some of them were friends from church, some were neighbors, or relatives from Germany, or the ladies with whom she played Liverpool.
The tablecloth was as much a testament to her gift of embroidery as it was to her natural abilities of hospitality and friendship. She opened up her heart as often as she opened up her home. And she was eager to add people to her extended family. That's why, while a few called her Wilma, most people under a certain age (hers) just called her "Oma," at her insistence.
When we decided to host our dinner party a couple months ago, I knew I wanted to start my own tablecloth tradition, in memory of Oma and her spirit of entertaining. I looked everywhere for a tablecloth that was even slightly reminiscent of the daisy pattern, but time was ticking and nothing I found looked quite right. Instead I bought some linen at JoAnn's and made a simple table runner, which ended up working just great. After the dinner party and another small gathering since, I've finally gotten around to stitching the names. It's been a fun little project.