Losing Mom: Vintage Linens


My mother was a collector’s collector. She went nuts over vintage linens, buying them for herself and for yours truly.

Soon after Mom died in March, my friend Nancy and I hosted a bridal shower at my house.The younger me would never have believed I could spend hours with Mom’s things within days of her death. I would have expected tears to hit the eyelet napkins like raindrops.


Ironing those napkins and slipping them into Mom’s silver napkin rings put me in happy spirits after a gut-wrenching five weeks. (Mom went fast with cancer.)

Napkin Rings

Getting ready for the bridal shower helped me mightily


and introduced me to the concept of active, and yes, even festive grief.

In this article on grief, the writer states that “healthy grieving results in an ability to remember the importance of our loss—but with a new found sense of peace, rather than searing pain.” Active grieving, be it ironing beautiful linens or hiking a beloved trail or starting a scholarship fund, helps us move to that new sense of peace.

My brother found drawers filled with linens as he cleared Mom’s apartment. He shipped them to me a few weeks ago.


I’ve been having a grand time sharing them–more active grieving as my friends admire and select the hand towels, napkins, tablecloths, or bureau scarves they like best.

If I experience a more searing loss, I have no clue if the concept of active grief will help me. But in the case of my mother, who accepted her death and told us she had lived a good life, using and sharing her collections has been restorative and rewarding.

What about you? Thoughts? Impressions? Suggestions? Experiences?

Photo Below: Mom starting out on her linen journey, her wedding day in April of 1946.

WeddingBook Giveaway Winners! Congrats to Pam, who won Barbara Crooker Selected Poemsto Carol and Karen, who won Judy Holland’s Moody Bitches; and to Lisa, who won June Cotner and Nancy Tupper Ling’s Toasts.

15 thoughts on “Losing Mom: Vintage Linens”

  1. What a lovely picture of your parents! How lucky you were to have them with you for some many years. I really like the way you have shared your good fortune with others; you are keeping her memory alive. Your mother’s linens added much elegance to the beautiful bridal shower.


  2. Lovely blog and a great way to share your mother’s beloved “things.” After my first husband died one of the ways I made sense of his death was by counseling other widows. I guess this fits. ANd yes, I have also enjoyed giving my daughters’ my mothers art, jewelry, and linens.


  3. When my mother retired, she went through this odd spell of making napkins?! I ended up with all of them and use the napkins almost everyday and it makes me smile. Also have a huge set of her handmade Christmas napkins I consistently forget about, maybe its Freudian.


  4. What a very nice picture of your Mom and Dad on their wedding day! 1946 was a very special “coming of age” time, and to me a most interesting time in history. One of my very favorite movies of all time “It’s a Wonderful Life” was filmed at this time!

    I am wondering when your mother’s passion for collecting things emerged? Did she ever talk about this? Was collecting always part of her life, or only when she got to be an adult, or older adult?

    She certainly has wonderful collections!


    1. That’s a fun question, Phyllis. Got me thinking. I don’t remember Mom talking about collecting things as a child. My first memories are when we started to go to garage sales when I was in Junior High. I do think collecting is great fun. The joy of either of the hunt or the serendipity of running into something you collect.


  5. Thanks for sharing your grieving this way. I think it is helpful to others. The linens are beautiful. Younger generations don’t want to iron, bleach, etc. fabrics. Still think your daughters might want them one day.


    1. I’ve got some tucked aside in case they change their mind. I was a little shocked the other day to learn that Kath doesn’t even own an iron! I do love to iron. In most cases, it’s fairly relaxing and you definitely get a quick reward for your effort.


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