Recently, a friend asked me if I had any advice based on my new found time-is-precious-beyond-understanding wisdom born of my current health predicament. Without pausing for much if any thought, I found myself saying, “use the good china.” There’s absolutely no originality on my part in that comment…I’ve heard and read it several times from others who've had near brushes with mortality. But, it’s an important message that bears repeating.
Stop waiting for the day you are going to have a dinner party sometime in the future, or a big family dinner that comes around twice a year. Use your good china right now! Use it often! It doesn't decrease the specialness, I promise. Make yourself a nice meal, put it on your china, take a tray in hand and go read your book, or watch a show (unless you are practicing the art of mindfulness-in which case sit at your table and enjoy the act of eating).
Now a little bit of a tangent...I’m a super weirdo about dinnerware. You know how most people who need new dinnerware actually go into a store… look at a few patterns, pick one they like, and then go home and use it? LIKE. A. NORMAL. HUMAN. BEING.
For me it takes on a more significant gravitas…like, “which dinnerware defines me as a person?” (Men, hang with me through this part...I promise there's a golden nugget of wisdom at the end)
It’s beyond ridiculous ya’ll, but it is what it is. So, for the last two years (smh that I actually wrote two years and meant it) I have been trying to pick a set of dinnerware. An activity that should take maybe a day at most, has taken me a couple of years. I want to have a set for life, and so it has to be the right one. Several different boards for dinnerware grace my Pinterest page- one for the Portmeirion (English), one for the Vietri (Italian), one for the Gien France (you guessed it...French), and one for the Polish pottery. My modus operandi has been to pause at each brand, look through the different patterns, while simultaneously trying to imagine myself at the table with family and friends, (using whichever pattern was occupying my thoughts), at the various holidays and get togethers of the year.
One of my goals before having brain surgery has been to pick a dinnerware brand and pattern. That goal didn’t sound as pathetic in my mind, as it does via keyboard. The good news is…I've done it!
This afternoon, my mother, Gilbert (my trusty sidekick walker) and I drove through the blanketed beauty of the first freshly fallen snow in our town. I have been singing Dean Martin to myself all morning… “Let it Snow,” and “Walking In A Winter Wonderland.” It was simple contentment and joyful giddiness at the powdered trees, and precious time spent with my mama.
We meandered into one of our favorite stores and I looked over the vast displays of china and pottery with curious unrest. My eyes paused as they landed on the Portmeirion Botanic Garden pattern that has been my dishware for the last sixteen years. It felt like a sad goodbye, as though I was looking at a different version of myself that didn’t match who I was any longer.
As years have gone by, I’ve been turning more and more into a homebody hobbit (minus the gross hairy toes). Friends have been encouraging me to get plain white dinnerware. “Classy” they say. “Elegant and versatile.” “You’ll get sick of a pattern.” I stare at the white displayed selections with my face scrunched in disdain at the thought of practical utilitarian rationale. 'White dinnerware definitely *does not* define me as a person,' I ponder seriously to myself (as seriously as one can be about such a subject...anyway). I can’t do it-even if it's logical. Standing there, leaning on Gilbert, I begin to wonder if other people ever have this kind of stream of consciousness standing in front of displays.
“What do I want?” I chant this mantra over and over to myself. I want beauty, artisanal work, colorful, tasteful, rustic but elegant, good quality, kind of hobbity… chemistry. I want chemistry! That's it! But...with my dinnerware? Self, what are you talking about? They are plates. You’re being a little nutso here. But that was the truth. I wanted dinnerware I found really pleasing because I know enough about myself--- to know that looking at a pretty plate with dinner is enough to make me quite happy most days. That’s why this quest for the right dinnerware was so important. It’s that perfect trifecta of something being beautiful, a hand made piece of art, and serving a utilitarian purpose that brings me such tremendous joy.
You see, when humans are just awful to one another other, and I’ve had to deal with horrid pain and terrifically bad stories in therapy sessions with clients... I can come home, and see beautiful dishware in my cupboard and think, “But look at this! Humanity may be full of flaws and we may do horrible and base things to one another, but we simultaneously have this higher part of our nature that makes winsome artistry like these plates. The right dinnerware is a profound sign of hope for me. It's taken me a long time to try to explain out loud why I couldn't just grab something attractive and be done with it. This is why. This is the much deeper significance I haven't been able to articulate. As silly as it may sound, this type of beauty helps me to constantly remember what we are positively capable of, and is a source of hopeful edification. Eureka, for being able to finally name it.
All of the sudden, my eyes landed on a stand-alone display. As in a movie sequence I moved toward it like a moth to a flame (well, rolled and hopped and schlepped along if we want to be technical), and there I stood in front of the Polish pottery display, while a ray of light came down out of the ceiling and heavenly music played while billowy clouds gathered at my feet…
Okay, not quite like that. But in that moment, I knew with perfect clarity that Polish Pottery was my dinnerware destiny. I picked up the heavy pieces and ran my fingers over their smooth surfaces. I imagined the artisans creating the patterns and designs. What were they thinking about as they painted each piece? Did they ever wonder who their work might go to? Were they heavy in thought over happenings in their own lives as they completed the minutia of the brush strokes? Was it a mindless activity for them? Do they know how much their gifts of artful details matter? Do they take for granted that they can create such beauty so effortlessly?
Staring at the various patterns, I made a bold decision. 'I’m not going to pick one pattern', I thought. Why limit myself? I loved the look of all the patterns displayed together. I’m going to get as many patterns as I want and mix and match them at will.
I picked up a plate with a butterfly. ‘Definitely this one,’ I decide. Then I thought the better of it and put it down. ‘No, you can get the butterfly plate after you get home. After you have the surgery, and after you return to work.’ Give yourself a little goal. Earn your butterfly plate. So, instead I pick out two luncheon plates to finally start my new dishware collection.
When I get home, I know I’ve made the right decision. I sit down at my laptop to write my blog, with my dishes in a plastic bag next to me on the couch. I take them out, smiling from ear to ear. The beautiful designs are not something I could recreate on my best artistic day. My finger traces the names of the artists Edyra K., and Joanna K., on the back of the plates. A little prayer goes through my head and I ask God to bless them, and to, in some small way, let them know their work and gifts are appreciated and cherished here on the other side of the world.