By Anne Sawan
I took down my wedding china this morning. I pulled a stool over to the cabinet where it is hidden safely away on the top shelf, climbed up and carefully took it all down: the smooth, ivory plates with the ruby borders, the dusty, cut-crystal wine glasses and the tarnished silver forks, spoons and knives. I took them down and stacked them all by the kitchen sink and after I finish writing this I am going to wash them off, polish them up and get them ready to be used tonight. Why tonight? Because it’s Monday. Because it’s Monday and we are having lasagna and salad for dinner. Because it’s Monday and my kids will get a kick out of having their milk poured into fancy wine glasses. Because it’s Monday and after dinner my kids will pull out their notebooks and calculators and start their homework. Because it’s Monday and for the twenty-three years I have been married I have only ever used my wedding china twice. Twice.
I remember the first time I ever used it. It was our first wedding anniversary and I made my new husband a “Chinese” dinner using some sort of pre-bottled sauce that I poured over a few pieces of pieces of chicken and a frozen vegetable mixture. As the gummy concoction sat and simmered on the stove, I proudly set our tiny, second hand kitchen table, taking out two settings of the china, filling the sparkling glasses with red wine and neatly placing the silverware by each plate; and then we celebrated. We celebrated with cheap wine and gluey chicken over sticky Minute rice in a tight, four room, drafty apartment we had rented above a noisy dance studio, across the street from a busy twenty-four hour gas station, and it was grand.
We’ll do this every year I thought. But we didn’t, we forgot. We forgot how wonderful it was and went out to eat on following anniversaries because for some reason we thought we should. Because eating in a fancy restaurant seemed better, more grown up, and so our wedding china sat, unused, packed away, waiting for a more deserving occasion.
The second time I used my china was years later, when I hosted Thanksgiving in my now bigger, not so drafty home. I was nervous that day, nervous about the turkey being too dry, the stuffing being too bland and my precious china being chipped or broken. So, when the kids all gathered around for the feast with their wide eyes and sticky fingers, I smiled politely and quickly handed each one a paper plate, hoping to avoid dropped dishes and shattered glasses; and after dinner, when everyone had finally left, I washed, dried and carefully inspected each piece of fine china before placing it all back up on the shelf; relieved my precious dishes had somehow made it through the celebration unscathed.
Then, this past week my parents who have been married for fifty-four years finally decided it was time to move out of their home. The home they have lived in for forty-five years. The home where they raised their large brood of children, keeping them safe and warm and sending them off one by one to find their way in the world. It is a house that is now too big for only two people, it needs a lot of work, upkeep… it is just time. So, as we sat around the other day, drinking coffee and discussing the impending move, what they will take with them, and what they will have to leave behind, my mother mentioned her wedding china. “I need to take my wedding china. You know… we never even used it.”
“Never?” I said in disbelief (as if using mine two times in twenty three year was so much better than never.) “Why you should be eating off fine china every night! You’ve earned it! Forget getting new plates, use your china!”
My brother chuckled. “I’ve never used mine either,” he said, the pain of his still recent divorce barely hidden beneath his deep laugh. We paused momentarily and then laughed together as he described the therapeutic relief he might feel if he were to perhaps make a nice, gourmet meal, use his wedding china and then throw it piece by piece onto the floor, smashing those plates into tiny shards, then sweeping them all up and up and throwing them all away.
And so, as we sat there as a family, reflecting on the things that have been, and the things that are still to come, I thought, about my wedding china, tucked away, and I thought, what am I waiting for? Some ultra special occasion? Some momentous event deemed finally special enough for a certain plate or a particular glass? How silly. The special moments are right in front of me everyday; eating cereal in front of the television on a lazy Saturday morning, sharing a bowl of mac and cheese in the afternoon after school, sitting on the front porch together and savoring a cold glass of beer after the lawn has been mowed. Aren’t all of life moments special enough to be served on china? Perhaps, I thought I had misunderstood the function of these dishes. Fine china shouldn’t be locked away, protected from the bumps and bruises of life, it should be used everyday, to celebrate the life that has been made together, for better or for worse, and if it gets broken or chipped, then so be it. So be it.
So, that’s why I am using my wedding china tonight. Because it’s Monday, because we are having lasagna, because my sticky fingered kids are special enough, and because the truth is, no one gets through this life without a few cracks.
Anne Sawan is a mother to five wonderful and aggravating children. She also is a psychologist and an author, having articles published in Adoptive Families Magazine, Adoption Today and several children’s books published by MeeGenuis.