No matter how busy the days have been over the past few weeks (I’m going to pass on the hyperbole and cliches, but it’s been pretty freaking busy), I’m able to catch my breath. To smile. To look around and really see.
The pace of changes in our family have accelerated, but the rhythm has slowed. Because I’m building intention into our rituals, our conversations, and our home.
I’ve boxed up all the wedding china. And I’ve replaced it with a classic family tradition: a mess or a miracle, depending on your perspective.
A few weeks after my grandma died, my mom invited me to look around and claim my memories. I went right to the kitchen.
If nobody has claimed them, I want two of these.
She asked if I was kidding. They’re chipped and cracked, she noted. Sure. But they’re the plates we used every week for Sunday dinner after my mom moved us back to California in 1979. Every week. Grandma and Grandpa and mom and kids and aunts and uncles and cousins.
I wasn’t kidding. I wanted two.
She gave me four.
The day I got them home I dig through the boxes in the garage. I didn’t know what they looked like, but knew they were there…in a dusty white file box labeled “grandma china.” Paternal grandma. Died in the early 90s. China came to me years later. And I never used it.
I took four and put them with maternal grandma’s plates.
Paternal grandma was one delightful half of my wholly delightful sciencey grandparents, whom I visited several times a year in Tucson. Scrabble and tennis and gin rummy and butter rum LifeSavers. And though I miss both her and grandpa every day, I have no memory of the plates. But who cares…they’re a piece of the people I adored. They remind me of lemon meringue pie and monsoon rains and Kodak carousels of global travels and a blue checked tablecloth.
My mom figured out what I was doing, and saved me a few of these.
Maternal grandma’s. I stopped caring about the stories and just basked in nostalgia and the glory of building from good memories. Starting over with just me and my boys and the legacy of love and kindness that is their birthright.
My kitchen is dripping with metaphor. Seriously, it’s like a bad freshman essay in there. And I love every cornball connotation.
A few days ago mom put four plates in my car. It was a frantic day of fraught decisions and parenting fails and traffic and yuck. I thanked her and heartlessly forgot them.
And today after work I remembered mustard for my boys’ favorite veggie burger recipe (lentils, rice, cashews, and a big pinch of organic shut-up-if-you-hate-veggie-burgers). And pulling the groceries out of the car I remembered mom’s plates.
I didn’t really look. I washed them. And I served burgers on them.
And after the kids went to bed I payed attention.
My grandma did.
So now I serve my family homemade food on plates my grandma valued even as my mom wanted to shed the memories they represented.
Grandma gave them a second chance, and new memories.
And now I’m doing the same.
Starting my way, with my family, and making my choices based on love, nostalgia, and a willingness to shed formal for cobbled together and beautiful.