Sunday, January 10, 2010
Of floors and weeping on them
A New York Times piece stopped me cold recently. Specifically, the author's reaction to one of her Grandmother's plates having shattered after New Year's dinner.
"The night before New Year’s Eve, I drove to my parents’ house, packed up the dishes and brought them home. I washed them carefully the next day, discovering a perfect sugar bowl I’d never noticed, admiring the shine on the gilt handle of a sculptural serving piece. After the children had gone to bed, and we and our friends sat down to a shimmering table, I felt as if I was liberating a set of dishes from decades of oppression. Why not use them every night? And if one or two broke over the years, so what? At least the dishes would have lived, insomuch as dishes can.
That's how I felt, at least, until the startlingly loud sound of that dish, a saucer, falling to the floor almost two hours after midnight. Glittering shards scattered across the kitchen floor, each one so delicately beautiful I had to leave the room.
It was surprisingly consoling when I discovered a few minutes later that even after that mishap, we still had more saucers than we had teacups: three had apparently already been broken. I was glad we hadn’t lost a set, but it also made me wonder. Maybe my mother had remembered wrong; maybe there had been some happy late-night parties at my grandmother’s home. Wine had been drunk. A dish or two had broken, as dishes do — as anything does, eventually.
We won’t be using those dishes every night, after all. I hope to use them before next New Year’s Eve, but I can see how it takes some will to risk a little loss in the name of celebrating what’s dear."
- The Courage to Use the China, Susan Dominus for The New York Times
My Mother can remember my Grandmother picking up shards of her broken china and crying, sincerely, over the broken plates and cups as she disposed of their remains. They were not heirloom pieces. Wedding gifts, surely not inexpensive but largely replaceable at the time, I imagine.
At first, it seemed frivolous emotionally and selfishly dramatic and frankly, a touch dangerous, to fall to one's knees weeping in a pile of broken glass. But as services have come down to me, and survived all we have known as a family, I realize it could happen; Not before guests, not for my girls to witness, and maybe not weeping, because, that is decidedly not my thing.
But still, there is a chance I might have to take a long moment over the irreplaceable pieces my people's hands touched. When you relinquish any survivor, inanimate or otherwise, to its fate, it does carry some ache, does it not?
In learning one or two things since I first heard mention of the weeping over plates, it seems a good deal easier to accept that some may have just such a remarkable response.
If it happens to you, send all accusers to me, I've got your back.