Hallie Watson

 Place Setting

Place Setting.
Oil pastel on paper, texted sintra
13.75” x 19.5”
July 5, 2005

Place Setting

    My Dad gave my Mum a grandmother clock when they got married. It is a pretty thing, hand painted with flowers down the front, dinging at the hour and at the half hour. For my whole life it set the pace for the domestic routine without stopping.

    Before she went to bed, my mother would set the table for breakfast. We would all get up the next morning at the same time, have breakfast and go off to work and school. At the end of the day, I'd come home and Mummy would be setting the table for dinner. She always set it at four thirty. There was a prescribed way to do this- the serving spoons here, the hot mats here. The glasses and silverware always this way.

    The placemats changed from day to day. They were pulled from a large collection handed down from my grandmother and probably her mother. They were lacy, plain, coloured, hand embroidered, tatted and crocheted, and from every country anybody in the family had ever been to. With them went the napkins carefully ironed and folded.

    It was beautiful. The silver cleaned, the lacy patterned mats contrasting with the dark polished wood. The glasses shone.
I always thought that setting the table in the afternoon was way too early for a dinner which wasn't produced until eight, but the routine was a structure that the household hung on - reliable and comforting. The clock dinged every half hour, and life was as it should be.

    Having dinner was an old world arrangement. My parents dressed for dinner. My father put on dinner music. I had long ago had my supper and was working on my homework. There was conversation.

    After dinner my Mum did the dishes and set the table for breakfast. Every single day. Except when they went out for dinner and dancing which was always on Thursday night.