I grew up in a simple home filled with lovely things. Antique dressers, homemade quilts, crystal stemware, gorgeous paintings, and family photos from the 1800s filled each room. Vintage glass and ceramic vases and water pitchers perched high atop the dining room hutch were beautiful to gaze upon but rarely, if ever, taken down to use. Linen napkins from Belgium? Not once did they wipe a messy mouth. And then there was my Grandmother’s Limoges, place settings for 12. Dinner plates, luncheon plates, salad plates, dessert plates, soup bowls, a soup tureen, platters of every size, coffee cups and saucers, tea cups and saucers, demitasse cups (and saucers!), a gravy bowl, all in a lovely rose pattern with gold fill inlay, thin and delicate, stored in the very back of said hutch. Over the years I would sometimes ask, “Can we use Grandma’s fancy china?” and the answer was always, “Oh no, it’s too nice. We would hate for it to break, wouldn’t we?” After awhile I realized the china was too precious to use so eventually I stopped asking.
Now lest you think this is the part where I unload my childhood trauma over not being trusted with the good stuff, rest assured; I am not. I may not have understood the reasoning behind owning tons of untouchable stuff but that’s the way it was. My parents loved me and had their own reasons for their decisions. However, once I made it to adulthood, left home, and started living in my own spaces, I decided that if an object could not be used and/or treasured on a regular basis, whether for practical reasons or esthetics, that object needed a new home.
When my mom passed away 7 months ago, my brother, sister, and I decided rather than have an estate sale we would rather find loving homes for our parents’ possessions, new homes where their things would be used and appreciated. After selecting items special to the three of us, we hosted an Open House for a small group of extended family and friends, a time for them to choose items they’d like. What a joy to see dear ones fall in love with an antique mantle mirror, a collection of signed wildlife photos, oak dressers from the 1930s (including a precious chest that will soon grace our grandson Noah’s room), or a random butter dish. After that we invited over a few of Daddy and Mom’s neighbors. Mrs. Smith wanted the clay Florida Gator that graced daddy’s croton bed. Another neighbor selected some kitchenware, Peggy and Gary chose (and restored) Daddy’s 1969 Coleman cook stove and lantern, and a friend’s niece provided a home for the 100+-year-old piano. A local church collected random furniture to provide to church members in need. All that stuff – so much stuff – 60 years worth of stuff – all found homes . . .
. . . except the Limoges, one of two patterns selected by Grandma Ferguson when she became engaged in the 1920s. I have plenty of dishes but something kept me from saying the Limoges was up for grabs. Would it go to a new home only to be packed away in a cupboard, dark and unused for another 30 years? It deserved a new life so I packed it in the U-Haul with a promise that if a year went by without it adorning our table, I would pass it along to someone else.
Over the past few months, in spite of being COVID house-bound, the dishes have appeared on our table often, sometimes just for a Tuesday evening sandwich supper. The latest occasion was Friday night’s homemade Thai dinner with some our first houseguests in months; my sister Angie, niece Diwa, and precious Abigail Bella. The meal required several items – dinner plates, salad plates, both a large and smaller platter – and I also pulled out the paper-thin crystal iced tea goblets that had belonged to my great Aunt Louella.
The table was beautiful.
The food was delicious.
The company was healing.
Even better, Devan offered to wash the dishes (as I dared not trust the dishwasher) and I gratefully accepted his offer.
Then it happened. A sickening crack accompanied by Devan’s barely discernible, “No!” The thing my Mom had feared and warned me about had happened. He broke the Limoges, the small vegetable platter to be exact.
For one brief moment I felt a bit sick and angry, then just as suddenly I found myself laughing. We’d just enjoyed delicious food accompanied by joyful conversation, served on plates crafted for delicious food and joyful conversation. Yes, my husband broke a dish, not in a fit of fury but in the service of love. Which is more important, the dish or the love? Love wins every time.
The same can be said of daily choices. As I go about my days, how often do I choose selfishly, putting all sorts of things before people, all manner of stuff before relationships, and all variety of personal “rights” before care and empathy for others? How often do I choose to only love those in my inner circle rather than the stranger or the neighbor who doesn’t look, act or worship the same as me? Far, far too often.
Using the Limoges on a normal evening is risky. So is living life beyond ourselves. Both are worth the risk.
P.S. - My sister encouraged me to repurpose that broken vegetable platter in my garden. Perfect.