My husband and I were married later in life. We had both been married before. My son was almost grown. And each of us had a complete household. Therefore, when we got married, we really didn’t want any wedding gifts. I imagined getting yet another toaster… One only needs so many toasters, and as it was, my husband, my son, and I were going to move in together, and our newly forming household was replete with three toasters already—one each. We each had our own toaster. While I suppose another toaster could have been carefully preserved as the “guest toaster” we decided to nip it in the bud instead. No wedding gifts, thank you. Send us a card with your best wishes. Write us a letter or a poem that we will add to our wedding album keepsake. But no gifts please.
However, after further discussion with my girlfriends, I finally admitted to wanting some china. Not just any china. I had always loved Royal Albert china, and in particular, the Old Country Roses pattern. And what is Royal Albert’s Old Country Roses without a set of Pinwheel crystal stemware?? Yeah, alright then. I fell face first into all the wedding registry nonsense that I swore I would avoid and had previously eschewed as unnecessary. So, my friends all went together and got me a four place setting. My sister, sister-in-law, and mother threw in some stemware, and afterward, I bought flatware and some table linen. Then I placed it reverently in an oak china cabinet where it remains to this day, beautifully displayed. I have added to it as one does when one first gets china. Now I can serve eight with all the serving bowls, tea pot, little extras, you name it. I got it. And if I don’t have it in Royal Albert, I have it in Pinwheel crystal. Yep. At my house you can eat off gilded dishes and hear the musical ring of crystal glasses. It’s just that it rarely happens. In 13 years of marriage, I have used the dishes 11 times. This is because they are set aside only for the most special of dinners. Usually Christmas dinner.
I have another set of dishes. They are beautiful, hand-painted, and a design by a dish artist (yes there are dish artists) that she has moved on from. This means that the art of her dishes, which I own in a complete set, is irreplaceable. And they are absolutely gorgeous, super cool, expensive, and I love them. There are pasta bowls and footed soup bowls and matching footed mugs. All hand painted and designed by an artist. I have a complete setting for 4. To compliment this set, I have over sized wine glasses—you know, the kind that will fit an entire bottle of wine for THOSE days—and a gorgeous pasta platter, olive trays, and other little porcelain cute things. In the past, when my husband and I have invited another couple to dine with us, there’s always a comment or two at how beautiful everything is. But again, we rarely use them because we rarely have a dinner party. We are just so caught up in our busy lives, that the special days to use the special dishes never come.
Now, I am rethinking the meaning of time and special days. As I sit here writing, I am sipping Chocolate Salted Caramel Dessert Wine from a long stemmed Pinwheel crystal champagne flute. Not so long ago I would have saved this dessert wine for a time when my husband and I were having the dessert course after dinner with friends. I would have cleared the table, and we would have sat afterward in muted light around a table and chatted and laughed and drank this lovely wine. I would have set it aside, and we would have waited. Like we wait to use the dishes. How did dishes become so meaningful to me? What am I waiting for?
But we do that, don’t we? Maybe not all of us, but lots of us certainly have a “special” thing that is hoarded away carefully for a time when a special day matches the specialness of the special thing. “I have save this bottle of champagne/scotch for a day like today…” or “I’ve been keeping this for you for when this day came along.” I used to believe in that kind of sentiment. I, myself, kept two bottles of the wine made specially for my son’s wedding. I had planned to open one when his first child came, and the other on the day he bought his first home. Landmark occasions to be celebrated with something that would bear special meaning to him and his wife. Think. Do you have that special thing you are keeping back? That special thing you never use? That ring from your grandmother you are too afraid to wear outside the house?
You see, we all believe that the day will eventually come. There will be a day to open the wine, to wear the ring, to use the china, to dust off that treasure so carefully hidden away. Sometimes though, we can wait too long. Time runs out on us unawares and we must go, without ever having tasted the champagne. Thus, I am learning to see the special “now.”
Two days ago, my son and his wife came over for dinner. I got out my special pasta dishes, and linens, and set the table, and poured expensive wine. My husband asked, “Why are you doing all of this? It’s just the kids.” True enough. My son shows up, and flops on our couch, and puts his feet on the coffee table, and always forgets to use a coaster. He’s at home here. But every time he comes over, he brings vibrancy and the incomparable gift of laughter. Contagious laughter brought forth by a lightning fast, razor sharp wit. When he walks through our door, joy follows with him. How is that not special? In fact, it’s the most special thing in all the world to me, to have my beautiful son bring his beautiful wife to our table. How lucky we are to have each other and to live so close by and to enjoy each other’s company as enormously as we do. Not all families are close. Not all families love each other. We don’t just love each other. We really like each other too. I think that deserves a special dish. How did I not know this before?
When my son and his wife had gone home, I put the dishes back in their special place. Then I sat for a while and listened to the abrupt quiet and felt that temporary cavity caused by the kids’ departure. You parents whose kids have flown the nest will know what I mean. How worthwhile it was, and how meaningful to catch up and laugh and enjoy a really good meal. (Okay, so I’m a pretty good cook. Just saying.)
When the monster first attacked, I was of a mind to down-size. Sell things. Give away my beautiful dishes. The monster made me feel that everything was meaningless. There was no point to anything anymore. Just, whatever. Here…take it. Take it all. But now, I am seeing that I was being hasty. Now, I want to do the very opposite. In fact, I think I’m going to use my china every week from now on. It is now my mission to seek out and acknowledge the special. My husband needs to be surrounded by beauty and happiness.
I want fresh cut flowers in beautiful vases decorating my home. Instead of waiting, the time is now. That little vacation fund we put away. No time like the present. I want to have little trips to see the theater in Vancouver. I want to have weekly book and pajama days. I want to fill my house with company, rather than keeping people at arm’s length during the monster’s residence in our house. I don’t want to play his game at all.
Monster! You thought we’d shut down, turn up our toes, and die the death you’ve forced upon us. Instead you’ve reminded us about the precious moments of our life, and that they come every single day. Each day has something priceless in it that deserves to be celebrated. And so we will celebrate indeed. I’ll bet you never saw that coming, did you, you ugly bastard! You may dictate death to us, but you cannot take away my dishes!