Sunday, April 22, 2001

Everyday life


In praise of ordinary moments

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        My everyday dishes are chipped. I don't know why I'm surprised. Every piece was a wedding gift, and they've had 30 years of hard use.

        We accidentally chose dishes that were durable, saucers that could be tossed into a dishwasher when we could finally afford one, cups that wouldn't explode in the eventual microwave. Just dumb luck, I suppose. I don't remember spending much time thinking about it.

        However, we agonized over our “good” dishes. Or at least I did. Mike, my pathologically practical husband-to-be, wondered if a couple with a coffee table made of Budweiser beer cans really was qualified to be discussing $150 place settings of silver and $40 china gravy boats.

Gas station dinnerware
        My subversive friend, Alice, refused to register for bridal gifts at all. To placate his mother, her colorblind fiance sneaked out to Shillito's and signed up. Alice is no longer a socialist, but the urine-colored dishes remain.

        Another friend scandalized her parents when she registered at the neighborhood gas station, which was giving away glasses and dishes with every fill-up. That was when an attendant would also pump your gas and clean your windshield, and the banks were giving away toasters.

        These were giddy and wonderful times for consumers, though we probably took it for granted.

        Gas stations started calling themselves “service stations,” right about the same time they stopped providing dishes or any actual service. Coincidentally, “full-service” banks stopped giving us toasters and calendars and started providing a handsome array of service charges instead.

        Meanwhile, my family was chipping the heck out of our everyday dishes.

Carrots overboard
        My baby daughter signaled her culinary preferences by shoving the bowls of creamed carrots off the tray of her highchair. The next thing I knew, she was eating dinner in a soccer uniform. Soon after, she was headed off to college, then to an apartment of her own. I gave her some knives, a skillet and my favorite sauce pan. But I kept my dishes.

        If I were a good mother, I could cite specific adorable mishaps: “This is when she was 6. She was bringing us breakfast in bed and dropped the plate of ice cream.”

        But I really can't remember how our dishes got so banged up. Friends, surely. Endless card games and Trivial Pursuit, lubricated by beer and cheap wine with cute names. At the end of the evening, loading the dishwasher sometimes became a contact sport.

        When we were first married, I used to drag out the silver and china, try out new recipes on our friends. After they left I would ask Mike if he thought they liked the London broil.

        “I think they knew what you meant,” he would reply loyally.

        Soon most meals — even the ones for company — were in the kitchen. The china was in the formal dining room, just in case we ever learned to be formal.

        Thousands of dinners. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. A new generation of babies who will hate creamed carrots. The very same nice, sensible man who went with me to the bridal registry 30 years ago still sits across the dinner table.

        Our good china is like new. No scratches. No missing pieces. My everyday dishes are chipped from everyday use.

        And I feel very lucky.

       E-mail Laura at lpulfer@enquirer.com or call 768-8393.

       



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