Saturday, July 6, 2013

Happy dreaming

One of mom's pieces of china.
Nippon from the 1910s as near as I can tell.
Ever since I was a little girl I dreamed of having my own table to set. My own friends and family seated in my own home. When I was young, I stared into my mother's china cabinet all the time looking at her beautiful china and crystal. 

Mom wasn't into putting out the best china. We used everyday dishes all the time and, though I often prodded her, she would never reach into that cabinet and take out the shiny gems inside for us to use.

She told me some stories about where the magnificent (to me) pieces came from. Or at least what she she believed to be true about them. There were the colored Swedish crystal wine glasses, the dainty etched goblets, the gold-rimmed china. All passed down to her by her mother or mother-in-law.

My seat at the dining room tableused only on special holidays and occasions faced the dining room cabinet. I would find myself drawn to the beauty that it held. I always hoped that someday, when I was older, mom would pass down those things I loved to me. 

We talked about it once and she said that I could have them any time I wanted them. I told her that as long as she was on the planet, they were hers to do what she wished with them.

And then, two years ago, she died.

The chapter I am writing now in my life story is one of sifting through things of value. But not what the owners considered valuable. Just what I and my siblings do. It seems disrespectful. Throwing out and donating items that they kept. Not ones to keep much of anything, it speaks even louder for what they did save.

My parents' house should have a purchase and sales agreement signed on it in the next few days. It was time today to start taking the items home that I want to keep.

I'm not a particularly sentimental person around material things. People are surprised to learn that I don't find old pictures particularly valuable. Oh, I'll look at them and remember, but I find no need to keep them. My pictures are all in my head. Safe for as long as my memory lasts. 

Today when I was carefully packing the china and crystal I've admired for so long, I remembered all the times I dreamed of having them for my own. And later as I cleared out a space in my own small china cabinet to put these jewels, I was reminded of a scene from The Quiet Man.

John Wayne had just secured the money owed to his new wife played by Maureen O'Hara. Money held back out of spite by her pugnacious brother and ward. When Wayne returns triumphantly to tell her that he got the money, she asked about her "things" that were also part of her dowry. The spinet, the dining table, the pewter and glass. 

He didn't understand why it mattered to her. He'd buy her all new things. She responded in tears, "There's 300 years of happy dreaming in those things!"

Years of happy dreaming was what today was about. Not clearing out a house or grieving my mom. I look at those "things" now, shining in my cabinet, and I feel the force of the world turning. Year by year, generation by generation. I look forward to my little niece growing up asking about those same pieces of china that I love so much.

I'll tell her the stories my mother told me. I'll tell her that I dreamed of sharing a meal with family and friends with that china and crystaland my guestssparkling about me. 

When my years come to an end and it's time for the next generation to carry on the traditions, I will be part of the story that my niece tells when she's asked about the "things" in the china cabinet. And somewhere, four generations of happy dreamers will be smiling.