Mabel’s Table

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by Nancy Newcomer

It’s hard to believe January is coming to an end, but here we are.  Earlier this month, the women of the family and some girlfriends gathered for “High Tea” at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco to celebrate my daughter’s birthday.  The food was beautiful and delectable, the atmosphere was both lady like and elegant complete with huge floral arrangements, a grand piano, and silver tea service. The tea room’s stained glass ceiling went up at least two stories and was built in 1909-stunning. It made you feel like you were in a movie set in Paris!

My Aunt Mabel would have loved it.

Family celebrations stir up lots of memories of Mabel. She always had a gorgeous table for special occasions. Fresh linen and lace, crystal stem ware, napkin rings, silver, fine china, place cards, candle sticks and floral arrangements. She loved all things beautiful and feminine. She adored bird and floral motifs. When I watched The Help I couldn’t “help” but think of Mabel.  A bit of southern flair and hospitality likely rubbed off on her during the 16 years she spent in Louisville, Kentucky. She made things pretty and paid close attention to detail, the way ladies of her generation knew how. Less was NOT more for Mabel,  more was more and I loved that about her. She adored babies & children, gift shops at tourist stops, her dogs, African violets, azaleas, knick knacks, wind chimes, garden fountains, humming bird feeders, lemon bars and everything sweet. She made the most wonderfully fattening butter crescent rolls for Thanksgiving. I have to admit, I didn’t care for her aspic..for those of you  born later than 1970, please look it up. There was butter on the table and gravy in a boat. She and my wonderful Uncle Corky hosted numerous Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners over the years as well as fun parties where we played dominoes on the card table and shot pool in the game room. She had a giggle that sounded like Dolly Parton’s and she loved to chat and laugh.  She and Uncle Corky were the quintessential hosts and made everyone feel welcome and important.

Mabel  had an innocent side and frequently spoke unknowingly in double entendres. It was quite charming but more often than not, downright hilarious. Her most famous one came out the night my dad threw a summer barbeque while my mom was away on the trip. I was in my early twenties just out of college and home for a visit.  My dad was excited to host a party for me and break all my mom’s rules. That rebel father of mine was delighted to put BOTH the ketchup bottle and mustard jar on the dinner table AND use paper plates~heaven forbid! (A bit of a running joke, but alas my mom prefers her condiments in serving dishes and thinks paper plates are tacky, but, I digress…) Mabel was asked to bring dessert that night for about 15 people.  She & Uncle Corky showed up with several platefuls of cookies, brownies and at LEAST 5 different pies. Everyone noticed the quantity of dessert, which of course was quintessential Mabel, after all, more is more. After a couple of “wows” and “that’s a lot of dessert” comments, Mabel smiled and giggled, “Well you know, men like pie!” Enough said.
It’s been 5 months since Mabel passed away. I lost my aunt and my mom lost her sister. She raised 5 children, adored her 7 grandchildren, and was blessed to live long enough to welcome 5 great grandchildren into the family. She was married to my Uncle Corky for over 60 years before his death a few years ago. They were the perfect couple who laughed a lot and always put family first.

Many moons ago, she hosted a beautiful bridal shower luncheon for me. She set out her finest china, silver, linen and crystal for the occasion.  I don’t remember what we ate, but I will never forget the wonderful feelings I had that day around the table with my family and girlfriends. The atmosphere made me feel honored, special, and very much like a bride to be. With sterling swans (or were they peacocks?) filled with roses and baby’s breath, all things old fashioned and feminine, the place cards were written in her own hand ~  lovely and curly, over the top cursive…that was signature Mabel.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kurt Shovlin January 29, 2012 at 4:50 PM

Hi, Nancy. Echo sent us the link to this and I wanted to say how lovingly it was written. You certainly triggered memories of a special side of Mabel that I share but which were somehow buried. She was certainly a traditionalist, but also confident in expressing her non-conformist perspective of life with wit, intelligence and a guileless willfulness. She and your mother could always be counted on for “putting things right” when it came to hosting formal and informal affairs. I miss her as I write this, Nancy, as do others whose lives she touched. Thanks once again for sharing these special remembrances.



Nancy Newcomer January 29, 2012 at 5:17 PM

Thank you, Kurt. Mabel is forever in my heart and I, too, will always remember her style and grace as well as her feisty side. Sending you all BIG love from down south. xo


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