Around Her Table

My Grammy was the most fun. Tall, boisterous, confident, joyful. In my memory, she was the life of the party and the heart of the family. She came from a big family, too (those first-generation Swedish Americans had lots of kids and loads of relations).

My Grammy's house was small and full of life. And I remember it with near-perfect accuracy—the layout, the carpet, the decorations... and the dining room.

A fantastic, textured, metallic wallpaper lined the dining room walls, and I loved to run my hand across it as I walked by, helping my Grammy set the table...the thick green shaggy carpet soft under my feet.

My maternal grandparents Harold and Helen Johnson, on their wedding day

She always set the table. Every time we gathered together outside of breakfasts in the kitchen. And it was always magic.

She had little crystal dishes for jello and salads and an entire buffet full of glasses of all sizes… for custards, and cider, and coffee, and pudding.

And mirrors. I remember her collection of tiny little mirrors of circles and squares she would layer about the center of the table. Reflecting the light... and calling forth an 'EVENT' about to begin. It was fun, and festive, and always... magic.

My mom's tables are the same. Absolutely delightful. They remind me so much of my Grammy: Absolutely delightful. She uses tablecloths and linen napkins; silver, china, candles, and dishes. Dishes, upon dishes… upon dishes, upon dishes.

My mom's Thanksgiving table
Sitting at my mom's table is a treat. My mom still serves the food once everyone is seated, moving back and forth from the kitchen with plate after plate... waiting nearby to return it to the kitchen once it's been passed around the table counterclockwise (just as it should be).

I love it. Every bit of it. We've never spoken of the connection specifically, but I know doing it reminds her of her own mom. And knowing this fills me with the greatest satisfaction.

But about me: I'm not as good at the relishing. I feel awkward in the serving, and I prefer to use as few dishes as possible. (I mean, literally as few as possible).

I like to make the table cozy… I really do. I light candles almost every night, and I prioritize eating together as a family every single day. But the extras often escape me...

Still, though. A few times a year, I like to really SET IT UP. The whole table. It feels festive and special, and it pulls forward the past to the present. I use dishes, and linens, and candles, and layers. And I really do enjoy setting it all in place.

My Christmas table

Sure, it's a lot more rustic and practical than my forebears… but it's personal, particular, and quietly memorable. And I relish the connection through time.

This year I'll be layering in a little piece of 'me,' using my very used and humble collection of adored cutting boards as chargers under my everyday dinner plates. I'm using the mixed and matched silverware I've collected from yard sales over time and a set of handblown stemware I purchased on a road trip through Florida at a Jewish senior center thrift store in Boca Raton. I'm using a tablecloth, but I'm leaving it 'undone,' and I'm nestling another piece, a delicate crochet, down the center.

I'm not as good at hosting as my mom and my Grammy. I'm not as comfortable in that role or patient with the preparations.

But a few times a year, I MEET the moment. I take my time, I fix and fit, and layer in the pieces.

And I delight, remembering the line: Helen, and Donna, myself, and maybe someday my Inga.

In her own way, in her own time.

Sebastopol, California 2022



A year later, I just reread this. Fills my heart again!
Grammy would love knowing you remember so many details, and the LOVE.. She adored you girls and cherished her moments with her grandchildren.


At the center, be it full of design and fancy formally or with rustic tenderness, is the gift of hospitality. Thank you for the gifts you have shared with us. Sending all the family best and highest hopes for meaningful and healing gatherings this Christmas season and joy going forward into the new year.

JoLynn DiGrazia

Oh my goodness oh my goodness. To see your grandma and grandpa again. My favorite people at church as a child. Thank you for the memories.

Kathy W Rushing

Brandi—such a treasure to create a welcoming place for family and friends. And I love how you connect to the traditions of your mom and grandmother while making it your own. I, too, believed that eating together was one of the most important rituals I focused on as our kids were growing up. To this day, we all love to cook and gather around the table, lingering over good food and conversation.
I hope your holiday is joyful and rich with moments you will always treasure.

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