Saturday, May 17, 2014

Family Memories

This morning at the next to last garage sale my children and I stopped at was a lady with a few cookbooks to sell.  I picked up one with some fun pictures of cupcakes.  Starting conversations at garage sales is one of the things I particularly enjoy doing, so I asked the cookbook woman what her favorite cookbook was.  She explained that her favorite cookbook is the one that her mom gave her.  

It is a cookbook with handwritten copies of the recipes from her family.  Some of the recipes are in her grandmother's handwriting--a particular treasure to her.  She recently found the letter her grandmother had written her the Thanksgiving she was cooking the family turkey.  It even had a note about being careful not to let her son near the oven so he wouldn't get burned.  

I have a friend who loves dishes in the same way that this woman loves her hand me down cookbook.  Her grandmother's dishes are precious to her.  I know that when her children are grown, they will remember her dishes and remember that their mother loved them.  Which leads me to my garage sale find of this morning...

A set of dishes.  They actually looked worse than this picture.  But, I recognized them right away.  Pfaltzgraff Gazebo.  I bought a set of Pfaltzgraff Gazebo 21 years ago.  They have moved with me twelve times and have been in six states.  They have been so durable and have lasted so well for me.  But, I had 8 place settings when I started out.  Now, I have 7 large plates (1 was broken last year).  And 3 bowls have been broken over the years. Pfaltzgraff stopped making them years ago and replacements would be crazy expensive.  So, I've never tried to add on.  It would be less expensive to buy new sets of dishes...
So, I was cautiously excited to find these.  There were 2 boxes.  The dishes looked horrible!  I still have no idea how they were taken care of to end up the way they looked this morning.  But, I was willing to take a chance and see if I could fix them.  The price was $1.50, so I wasn't going to lose that much if I couldn't clean any of them.  I brought them home and pulled out the stoneware cleaner I'd bought years ago from Pfaltzgraff.

It did nothing.  Nada.  Zero.  Zilch.  Ugh.

Then, I thought of Bar Keeper's Friend and pulled it out from under my sink.  I don't keep a lot of cleaners on hand. (and I threw one more away today!)  Bar Keeper's Friend is one I like.  It's inexpensive and does an awesome job cleaning stainless steel pans!  Porcelain and Ceramic are two of the things it can clean.  So, I sat down and got to work.  A damp rag and Bar Keeper's Spread sprinkled all over the plate.  I was only able to clean two dishes at a time because of all of the elbow grease it took.  But, it was worth it!  Now, I have 13 big dishes, 16 small salad plates, 8 bowls, and 16 coffee cups.  

As I cleaned these dishes, I realized that someday when my children are grown, they will remember eating on these white dishes.  These will be dishes like my friend's grandmother's dishes.  Perhaps they will be special because they were mine.  I know they are white, but they are special to me.  They've traveled with me and persevered with me.  They've lasted.  

Rabbit trail... Eli broke one a few weeks ago, and I have to admit that I was upset that he had broken one of "my" dishes. Sometimes I say things and I just know immediately that it was wrong.  This was one of those times.  In this case, my thinking was very self-centered.  Yes, he broke a dish, but it was one of our family dishes--not one of my dishes.
After I'd cleaned up all the shards and had time to think, I saw my error clearly.  The dishes could have been considered mine, I suppose, but what I was really saying to my son in that moment was that he had done something to hurt me intentionally.  I was saying, "How could you?!"  This was totally not true.  He hadn't intended to drop the dish.  But, by using the words that I used, I said to him that I thought he had.  That was my greatest error.  The heart of the matter was that I needed to see it as an accident and that it was more about my son than me.  I then showed him what to do with dishes when they came out of the microwave and instructed him.

Another rabbit trail...
Still, they're just dishes.  Yes, they're a treasure and they make me smile because they come from a time when I had nothing, but I spent $30 on a set of dishes that I hoped would last a very long time.  Still, they're just dishes.

It's the memory that's more precious.  The dishes are reminders of meals I've made.  Eating as a family.  Serving meals to guests.  Memories are more precious than things.  I'd rather Eli remember the dishes as the ones we ate on than the one he broke!  I suspect that someday he'll probably remember both...

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