The dinner plates don’t match.
Somehow over the last 17 years we have collected a bunch of plastic plates that the kids use at breakfast, lunch and even dinner. When we were first married, we started out with 8 place settings of basic white dinnerware from Williams Sonoma, and we are down to 6 dinner plates and 4 salad plates. I am not even sure how many soup plates we have left, but I noticed the other day that one of them is chipped and is not long for this world.
For a couple of years now I’ve been wanting to add to that dinnerware…but they don’t sell that basic white pattern anymore. And now that I’m a little more confident in who I am, I’d like something a little different anyway. Something that has a little personality. Back then, when I bought these, I was so afraid to get anything that made a statement, because what if it didn’t go with anything else? And so my home was very…basic. And boring. But everything matched.
This morning as I was rinsing that chipped soup plate, I remembered one night when I was a teenager, probably 17 or something like that, when I thought all the world was staring at me waiting for me to do something wrong. I was setting the table and my David was coming over for dinner. And I realized for the first time that nothing matched. NOTHING. The plates didn’t match. The utensils didn’t match. The cups didn’t match. And I did not like that not one little bit. Because what is more horrifying to a 17 year old girl trying to impress a boy than a table that doesn’t match (I can think of a few things but stick with me here)? And because when I had gone to his house, everything matched. And I think they had cloth napkins even. And candles. And a snuffer! (To this day I have only ever seen a snuffer at his house and in the movies. True story.) Yes, they were fancy people with a snuffer. And they used that snuffer to extinguish the flame so that they wouldn’t get wax on their tablecloth.
Good Lord, they had a tablecloth.
My mom long ago abandoned the idea of a tablecloth because we spilled milk every.single.night. Every night. And that was just more laundry than she needed to be doing so goodbye tablecloths.
I wish I could go back to one of those dinners. I wish I could watch my brother, who hated green beans with a passion, dig through the bowl to find the two shortest beans. (Two was the minimum vile green bean requirement.) I wish I could see those spinny chairs we had. I wish I could see the seven of us crowded around the table to eat. And the spilled milk…and how Mom would freak out and yell about how we spilled something EVERY SINGLE NIGHT! I wish I could watch my dad finish everyone’s plates. I wish I could watch us sitting there, whimpering because we had to eat two bites of fish, which we doused in ketchup, before we could leave the table, and how my mom would set the little timer on that avocado green stove and when we weren’t looking she would add time to it so that we wouldn’t have to go to bed early. I wish I could see her wash the table with the sponge, and scrape up the little stuck on bits with her thumb nail, then wipe them up with the sponge. I wish I could see that little family together again…hear what we talked about…hear the small voices.
These things are worth remembering.
These things are lovely.
But I wonder if it bothered my mom, that things didn’t match. That her table was half set with brown-ringed plates and half set with blue-ringed, pink-flowered plates. With three different patterns of forks and spoons and knives and seven different glasses.
(Maybe if we had stopped bringing the spoons outside to dig in the dirt all the time, well, maybe the spoons would have matched.)
(And maybe if we hadn’t kept on spilling the milk and breaking the glasses, well maybe we would have actually had a matching set of those Flintstone glasses from McDonalds.)
My sense is that Mom was more concerned about buying new shoes and feeding five little mouths than she was about a table that matched.
It’s not going to bother me either. It only took 25 years, but I have finally learned that it isn’t really all that important in the bigger picture. What is important is being together. Sharing time and stories and meals together.
Our table will be colorful. And our bellies will be full…
…but maybe not quite as full as our hearts.