Something different today. One of the things I promised myself this year was that I would write at least one story, beginning, middle and end. This is a struggle for me, finishing a story that is. I hope you will humor me, put the kettle on, make a cup of tea and sit and read my short fiction story.
Always Use The Guest Towels
Always Use The Guest Towels
a story by Karen M. Owen
Looking back over my life at Christmas as one does, the moments in your life that you don't realize are pivotal until much later, it is often these memories that sting the most, burn the brightest and catch us off guard when we least expect it for years to come.
As a younger woman, visiting my fiance's parents at the holidays I was overwhelmed by my now mother in laws enthusiasm for decorating, each room of their house top to bottom and each level of their three story house, looked as if it could be in the latest Southern Living Magazine Holiday Style Edition.
For me it was the 5 bathrooms in the house, all sporting different holiday decor and all of so it tastefully done. What caught my attention the most was the attention to detail. Each room having a different theme and amazing arrays of holiday soaps, scents and luxurious towels. These were all so beautiful and so perfect that I hesitated to use the soap or even dry my hands on, in this magazine worthy room.
My own family was much simpler and putting out the good towels meant putting out towels that had been freshly laundered and matching, not the ones from the floors of our rooms or the hockey/swim towels. So for me as a young bride to be this display was simply amazing.
I must have spent too much time admiring the towels as my soon to be husband came to find me worried I was ill or had gotten lost.
To him there was nothing spectacular about the state of the bathrooms, this was simply how he grew up.
Returning to the family room for our pre dinner appetizers and snacks beautifully wrapped gifts lay under the tree, (some even addressed to me). I had felt anxious about this first holiday dinner and spending part of the Christmas Day with someone other than my own family, but my soon to be husband's family went out of their way to include me in their traditions, inside jokes and quickly put me at ease.
On Christmas morning after spending the morning with my own family, my fiance picked me up and we went to his parents for a Christmas Brunch, followed by a gift opening.
The brunch was elaborate and everything was immaculate as it was the day before. My mind began to wander back to my own parents living room which was right now in a state of utter chaos, ripped paper, packages and my three nephews and the dog having a wrestling match as we left. I began again to feel uneasy at the sophistication of my fiance's Christmas morning. The order, the calmness, the beauty and the pageantry of it all made me excited and intimidated for what post married life may be like in a home of my own. I knew I wanted to have a cozy home that felt lived in but I would love to bring these elements of holiday calm and glamor into our own home.
We were young and not quite penniless but not far off and I had knit my mother in law to be a scarf as a gift, and made my father in law to be a tin of cookies, and in that moment I began to worry that perhaps I had underestimated how underwhelming my gifts to them would be. Slight panic overtook me as it was announced it was now time for the gift exchange. To my surprise, I was delighted and touched to find that Santa had left for me a stocking full of things a new bride to be might like and need for her own home at the holidays. I smiled at the thoughtfulness of the holiday themed napkins, napkin rings, candles and soaps included in my stocking. I began to relax in the surprise of it all and felt like a young child on Christmas morning as I got to the bottom of the stocking and found a holiday orange. Smiling I peeled it and ate it while we chatted and coffee was poured.
The towels were embroidered with tiny silver snowflakes, the soaps matched too. Everything was perfect. But it was not the contents of the box that caused the tear to run down my cheek today after all those years it was the note inside the box. It was in my mother in laws hand writing and it read "Please use the guest towels. Many years ago when Phil and I were first married, we had very little money but big ideas, hopes and dreams. We found ourselves setting up our own home that first Christmas and had very little, but my own mother in law, put together a gift very similar to the one I am giving you now with a letter similar to the one you are now reading. In her letter she said "Life is short, use the guest towels" So I give you that same piece of advice and your first set of Guest Towels. You are just as important as the guests who you invite into your home, learn to treat others as you would yourself only works when you take that advice. May you and Brian live a long and happy life and may you one day pass this advice and a gift box like this to your own future daughter in law. Merry Christmas.
This was a very nice gift at the time but its meaning was more or less lost on my young mind. Finishing the last sip of my hot chocolate I stood up, gathered my belongings and discarded my cup. I walked trance like into the linen store and I purchased a set of guest towels, hand towels, face cloth, shower curtain and matching soaps. I asked for a big box. Leaving that store with all my purchases my once heavy heart felt light again and I headed home to wrap and write my own letter.
On Christmas morning when my son's fiancee sat nervously on my couch , and began to unwrap her gift, seeing the letter on top of the towels she read it out loud. It was not her I looked at though as she read, it was my mother in law now in her 80's seated comfortably in a chair by the fire and I caught her eye, and we both smiled as Sheryl read the words " Always use the guest towels"