Just a thought… The trick is to enjoy life. Don’t wish away days waiting for better ones ahead. [Marjorie Pay Hinckley]
Just when you hoped a weekend might clear your mind from awful news…. John McCain passes away. A mass shooting at a gaming tournament in Florida. A great American playwright, Neil Simon, steps off life’s stage at 91. One was expected, the second, another gun-related tragedy and the third, the end of a full and fruitful life.
The randomness of life itself drives home the reason behind something I’ve started doing since dismantling our comfortable existence in Ontario and inventing a new one here on beautiful Vancouver Island: use the good dishes!
Back when I did a nightly show on Rogers TV in Toronto (on channel 10 before the million-channel universe and I’d joke that you had to go past us to get to something better) I interviewed a woman who wrote a book by that title. Chiropractor, author and keynote speaker Elaine Dembe came on to talk about Use the Good Dishes: Finding Joy in Every Day Life and although the contents of our discussion have long faded away, that title – that theme – has always stayed with me. And no more so than in the past few months.
When my Mom died six years ago, she left behind a set of white china. It’s white with silver swirls and I’m happy to say that I believe she chose a pattern that has aged well since she received her first pieces as a bride in 1956. None of my other three sisters had need or want of these place settings, so I happily agreed to give them a home, envisioning big joyous gatherings at our cottage where mom’s dishes could have a second life.
Of course, our own lives would unfold – or unravel – in such a way that celebratory meals became a thing that I doubted would ever happen again. Still, we moved the dishes with us to BC and put them in a room off the kitchen, stacked and untouched.
Mom also collected silver, as brides did back in the day and perhaps still do, for all I know. I didn’t and neither did Lauren; neither of us thought we had the kind of lives that real silver would fit into, you know?
I asked my sister, a jewelry appraiser, to suggest what she thought Mom’s set was worth and then wrote my sisters cheques and gave the silver a home. There are four of some pieces and twelve of others, but I added to the unusual count when I found the same pattern online. Someone was selling silver and a chest and I bought all of what they were offering. That mishmash of flatware, some of it black with tarnish, also moved into that room off the kitchen. Unused and ignored.
This past week, everything moved into a kitchen cupboard when I made a conscious decision to start using mom’s china on a more regular basis. In fact, we used it twice in the past five days. Yes, it means hand washing dishes and cutlery after a dinner gathering, but it’s worth it. Every time I set the table with her dishes and silver, I think of how thrilled she’d be that it’s being used again.
We’ve had dinners with six or eight people and, more often than not, that china has made an appearance. And I feel a connection with my mom that adds a layer of peace, an air of joy to each table setting. It’s a way of honouring her and our shared past, while showing guests that they’re special enough to bring out the “good” dishes.
When we left Ontario, I gave away a box of champagne glasses bought for wedding celebrations for our daughter. I thought I would never again have a reason to raise a glass or join in a joyful shared moment with friends or family. But time has proven me wrong. Don’t give away the champagne glasses. Life has a way of giving you reasons to smile and to toast again.
And for heaven’s sake, use the good dishes! I don’t know who is going to want these pretty white pieces when I’m gone, but for now, rather than worry that something could break or chip or that cleanup might take a bit too long, I linger in the moment and appreciate the happiness that comes when friends and family gather, the clouds part and a broken heart once again feels the warmth of life’s sunny days.
I hope yours is a good one. Thank you for coming by. And here’s a link to Elaine’s website if you think you’d like to know more about this woman and her work.