Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Life, Already in Progress

So far this year, I've thrown out three things that I haven't bothered to replace: A fleece jacket that made my arms itch, a medium-sized hairbrush with half the bristles melted, and our food processor.

The food processor had been a wedding present twelve years ago and it expired from motor burnout early in January. I was waiting for a sale on food processors when I realized that there wasn't one thing in my regular repertoire of meals that I hadn't been able to make in the past month with a chef's knife and a blender.

Sometimes common sense sneaks up on you like that.

It snuck up on me this weekend when I was shopping for a dish rack. Not a drying rack, but the kind you use to store dishes in a cabinet. Specifically, the "good dishes" that we hardly use except for two soup bowls, which we've been using whenever we have soup or pasta. The whole 44-piece set has been relegated for many years to a dusty shelf high in the cabinet, stacked one dish on top of another and eight bowls on top of that, with me making jump shots three or four times a week to retrieve two bowls.

I figured that we would use the set more often if I stored it in a more accessible way, which is why I was perusing the housewares department of K-Mart on Sunday. But I found my attention wandering, no matter how many times I called it back nanny-like, to simple glass dishes and bowls in packages of four. Finally, I got tired of reprimanding my unconscious for tugging on my sleeve and decided to listen to it. And it said, "Why the hell do you have a 44-piece set of dishes that you hardly use?"

Oh, because a relative got me those dishes when I first moved into my apartment in 1978 and I don't want to insult her. Because one day I'll have a big house in the suburbs and then I'll need all those dishes because the family will "do Thanksgiving" at my house. Because I want to have something nice for when people come over. I want to entertain like a grown-up, even though I can't think of one person I know who drinks their coffee or tea out of a dinky little cup and saucer with their pinkies sticking out and my first set of cats broke the sugar bowl in 1985.

Oh, okay. Now here's the deal:

1. Every time I've realized that I didn't want to get rid of something that wasn't "me" (or my husband) out of fear of hurting a relative's feelings, I've also realized in short order that the relative in question either hadn't been to my house in 15 years, was no longer among the living, or had long forgotten what they had given me as a housewarming present.

2. Unless there is a radical change in our lifestyles, we will be living in tiny urban dwellings--most likely the one we're in--for the rest of our lives.

3. If we were indeed to have such a radical change, like we hit Mega-Millions Lotto and can afford a slightly larger apartment, we would also probably be able to afford another 44-piece set of dishes.

And I realized a few other things, as the people in K-Mart said "excuse me" and tried to get around me in the housewares aisles. I realized that when my family had given me all the housewarming presents back when I was the most provisional of adults, they--and I--had visions of my "growing into" the life scenarios that would use these things, the way a puppy grows into its paws. And when I didn't grow into those scenarios--Mother of two-point-five, President of Show Business, whatever--I've felt like a puppy with a bad case of arrested development. But I outgrew the puppy stage many years ago. I just grew into different paws.

So I have a semi-creative life with a husband in an apartment that seats four people comfortably for dinner. The family, the ones still living, have thrown up their hands on trying to control me and have set their sights on the next generation, who are already beginning to confound expectations. I've become whatever I've become, and discarding the other lives I'd thought I would grow into just gives me more room for the one I have.

Wow, that's beautiful. Your writing is getting more and more poetic.
Exactly what I was thinking. But you said it so much better. Brilliant!
So either start using the nice dishes (clear glass just gets foggy and scratched in the day-to-day) or buy china keepers and store them aways from dust.
Nice china is a pleasant thing to use. It makes any ho-hum meal feel more special, and gives you a lift. Why settle for the mundane?
I don't remember you saying that you actually like the china. If you do, make the bold move to break up the set -- saving only the things you want to serve 4 -- and make it your every day service.
If you do end up getting rid of those dishes, I've got my grandmother's dining room table sitting in my shed because it is way to big for any house that I'll ever own, and it sounds like it would go perfectly with your dishes.
Grim got it right: We kept four of each piece and gave the rest to the thrift shop. It wasn't a complete set, anyway, and wouldn't have brought in a lot of money if it had been.

So now they're our everyday dishes.
Thank you for this.

I just turned down my suburban sister's offer of a 36 piece dinner set--that's 12 dinner plates for me. And the 3 other people I could ever accomodate for dinner.

She didn't understand...b/c they were such a good deal.
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