Carefully I wipe the last droplet off the knife, slowly rubbing my thumb along its ridges. I slide it into the last slot in the heavy wooden box. Then I pick up the stack of plates and bowls, and taking measured steps move over to the sideboard. I pull out the quilted bags, and unzipping the first one, gently begin replacing the soup bowls in their soft cocoons.
Screech. Hold on a second.
What? What is this lovely scene of domestic bliss, of careful and measured housewifery that I’m describing? Is this fiction, you’re wondering?
Nope. This is me. Handling my prized possessions. My wedding silverware and china.
I’m not a careful person. I’m the opposite of a neat freak. I move fast and break things faster. I misplace everything. My closet is a mess, my cupboards a shambles. There is no discernable order to my life. It’s just the way I am, and the way I am works for me. As I used to tell my mother, there are a million things that I’d rather be doing than tidying up my stuff. Like anything else. I guess you could call me a functional slob.
I’ve got almost nothing left from my engagement and wedding gifts. Twenty one years and three children later, most of the gorgeous pieces I received have long been found shattered. I believe that things are for enjoying and a home is for living in and as such, accidents happen. A kid jumps and a decorative plate falls to the floor in pieces. A vase gets chipped in the sink; picture frames tumble from their perches. All that stuff can be replaced, but kids and their childhoods can’t. I’m not a hovering or overly permissive mama by any means (I prefer orderly chaos to anarchy), but my kids and their energetic childhood feelings are worth more to me than a bunch of knicknacks.
But some things are sacred. Like my wedding silverware and china.
With those, I’m careful. So careful. We do use them, I’ll have you know. They’re not covered up for show like your granny’s plastic covered sofa. They’re brought out on the regular for occasions – dinners to remember and family gatherings and special moments. But they’re handled with kid gloves and washed by hand and stored in their proper places. I’m slightly anal when it comes to these pieces. Completely out of character.
But they’re just things, you say. They’re replaceable. Like all your other stuff.
Regardless of what they stand for, and that they’re literally the last remaining nice thing that I own, they mean so much more than you can imagine. Beyond being tangible symbols of that unforgettable night when my husband, who is long-suffering and patient and kind and annoying and likes me 87% of the time (according to him he loves me 100% of the time but is that possible?) and I stood under the Chuppa and laughed and danced our way through what was supposed to be a solemn wedding ceremony (what can I say but his shoes didn’t fit and he was so nervous his wedding ring wouldn’t go on and the 6th blessing out of 7 has a great groove and I was 25 and DELIRIOUSLY happy and ready to party for 60 years).
They mean a long marriage and a long life. They mean the beauty and excitement of being a young bride looking forward to the exciting unknown. They mean all the past dinners we’ve eaten on them and all the ones to come too. The Shabbats and Passovers and Rosh Hashanas and Thanksgivings with my father that will never happen again because he is gone but not gone. They mean the marking of time with my remaining parents and in-laws and the not-so-distant future when I’ll feed my son-in-laws and daughters-in-law and then grandchildren (god willing) over chicken soup and a nice brisket.
They mean those are Bubbie’s fancy dishes SO BE CAREFUL as I sit glowing at the head of the table looking at what’s important; what I’ve accomplished.
They mean the day when my Dad accompanied me to William Ashley’s to choose my patterns. When he said, Pick the black and gold on white Royal Doulton because you’ll love them forever and you’ll never get sick of them. And the moment he was right because I still do. And then, when I didn’t receive ANY of my Christofle silverware (because I have expensive taste) he went and bought me six place settings for my 25th birthday, which was only 3 months after the expensive wedding he’d just paid for.
They mean when my step-mother said to me Of all the kids you’re the most like your father. And I know she’s right because we chose those plates and bowls and forks and knives together.
I’m careful with my wedding silver and dishes because if I’m going to be careful with anything, it may as well be the things that make me have all the feelings well up inside. Because sometimes it’s not the actual things per se that we treasure, but more because of what they evoke in our hearts.
You know what I mean?