Monday, March 14, 2011


I keep forgetting. There are so many I-didn’t-mean-to’s in my disjointed life. Stacked in the cupboard next to my pile of cobalt blue I-really-intended-to’s. The stacks nearly reach the top now, and the shelf is beginning to bow under their weight. My good intentions are so, so heavy.

The cupboards in my kitchen are custom made. Nice ginger stained maple doors with distressed panels to hide my bang around kind of lifestyle. Large, beautiful cabinetry that was once so crisply clean and tidy. I unpacked the boxes when we moved from the old house, placing my dishes on the virgin shelves in neat little stacks, shifting and rearranging as my logic re-thought how I might be moving and working in the kitchen five years down the road. There are two dozen dinner plates with red gingham borders. Practical Corelle dishes; ones the kids could bang into piles as they lifted them from the dishwasher. I’ve used those very dishes as long as we’ve lived here, not far from two decades now. They do not make anything in Corelle nearly as charming any more. I’d buy new ones, only I don’t really care for anything they make these days. So I continue to fill and use and wash and stack the same old dishes over and over.

Below those plates is a set of green plaid china, once used at the Thanksgiving tables of my childhood. We rarely set those, unless we have a very large crowd, but I feel a sort of safety knowing they are there, holding the feast of memory: of brown autumn carpets of grass outside the windows of the homes in my past, of mounds of mashed potatoes next to strips of turkey meat covered with a volcanic flow of gravy, fragrant molten deliciousness filling the spaces in a clump of stuffing like lava covers pridefully built little villages at the base of old volcanoes. I cherish those old green plates. My children would not know why, but for these words.

Under that stack of china are two plates made of thick red ceramic with words written on the rims. “You Are Special Today. Something like that. Obviously I am not too sure of this because I keep forgetting to use them. I joined the mass of consumers in the 90’s who thought this a clever idea, to have a special plate for special people on their special days. Dave or Gram or Libby purchased a second plate one year, so on March 5th both Sarah and I could have them set before our seats at the dinner table, since we share the same birthday. Once in a while I’ll remember to use one when I’m setting the table on someone’s birthday. Inevitably I arrange everything, then notice the rim of red at the bottom of my cupboard.
I lift the heavy weight of our regular lives off the plates then run some warm water over them to make sure the dust of underuse is cleaned off. It reminds me that I must also go to the living room and open the little cupboard in the antique mahogany high-boy originally designed for the storage of top hats.
That’s where I store the party décor. Noise makers for New Years, balloons and colorful paper hats and little rolls of rainbow colored paper which, when divided and released from their rolled-up state, curl down in ringlets from the dining room chandelier. Their sole purpose in existing is to proclaim “There’s a party here!”

You are Special Today.

Truth is those red plates should sit on the top of the pile. Perhaps there should be two dozen red You Are Special Today plates stacked there in my cupboard. When I use my truest eyes I realize some aspect of every day and every person is special. That’s a no brainer. Problem is, a table full of those plates used day after night after day would make them no longer special. It would make them ironic. Would make you not want to eat off them eventually.

So we keep the bright red plates for those very, very uniquely and yet universally accepted days when we celebrate each others' accomplishments and token anniversaries.

That’s how it should be.

If only I could remember they were there.

1 comment:

  1. I use plates for decades, and then, in a flurry of restlessness, pack them into boxes (if I ever loved them) and stick them upstairs in the attic. When I run across them, I'm usually pleased and surprised and wonder why I put them away. Which was the point of doing it. Now, I have a stack of spring-summer plates and one of fall=winter plates. Which, of course, I have to remember to change every six months - with the effect of making time move very quickly. And I lose a few every dang time I move them. Which might be good. I have to be careful =- buying a plate that charms me in its upright, display position may probe a disappointment when broccoli and salad and meatloaf mess up the graphic I thought was so engaging.

    Funny, though. Plates are an environment and a dimension of memory all by themselves.