We brought it out at Thanksgiving and created a resplendent table with it, and the silver, and the stemware. Once a year.
Although I am a child at Christmas, full of anticipation and wonder and the magic of the tree lights sparkling in the dark, Thanksgiving is really my favorite holiday.
All I have to do is cook, drink, eat. Not necessarily in that order.
At the end of the meal, after the coffee and pie, and the signature mashed potatoes that only Mike could make, we shared a marathon session of dish washing, by hand (in the dishwasherless days before the remodel) and then the plates would go back into the round, plastic, zippered bags with the quilted floral pattern, separated by those little foam circles that were supposed to keep the plates from chipping.
And the stemware went back in its box, each glass with its own little cardboard compartment, stowed carefully on the shelves in the cubbyhole at the top of the basement stairs.
But when Mike got sick, and we knew that each upcoming Big Holiday would likely be his last, we decided, fuck it, let’s use the good stuff now. Any time we want.
And we wondered, why did we keep it all packed away all year anyway?
The whole idea of bridal “china patterns” now seems sort of quaint, or twee, or adorable in that way that brides are allowed to be adorably annoying, observing the rituals that really belong in the nineteenth century and before.
We have ten place settings. Ten. And we never had more than four family members over for dinner, and that, very rarely (long story, book, I’m working on it).
But really, who uses ten formal place settings anymore, in their home? Most homes now without formal dining rooms? (although I hear they started making a comeback with builders and their clients a few years ago. Sounds good to me. Invite me as a companion for your extra man – I’m a lively conversationalist and I never miss a chance to overdress!)
But now our child and I continue to use that fancy china regularly, two place settings at a time.
And I try to use the Good China as a reminder to be thankful, not once a year, but daily.
Another widow has “gratitude Fridays” so I’m going to try “thankful Thursdays” – and one of the exercises I want to commit to observing is writing a thank-you note a week to someone. Just to express gratitude in a concrete way, and maybe to share those here.
Recipients of thank-you notes I’ve written tell me I’m pretty good at it. I’ve even thought of turning that into a side business – to help those hapless, adorable brides who’ve gotten themselves in too deep and can’t come up with a single original thing to say to the gifter of the tenth full place setting. I can help her with that.
(I’ve also written a few thank-you notes that I never sent, on the order of, “Dear Mrs. Moneybags: How gracious of you to respond to my phone call with a letter, informing me that the organization I had hoped you’d support deserved its demise for its silly habit of asking poor families to pay only what they could, and instructing me that such foolishness should be abandoned posthaste, and good riddance to those poor folks. Right here in our town! The nerve!” Or something like that.)
But since we have The Big Holiday in the area of thankfulness coming up, I think I’ll save the weekly notes for after the holidays, when people aren’t expecting them.
In the meantime though, there are some Thanksgiving rules, which, unlike the practice of using the Good China only once a year, cannot be abandoned. To wit:
- No Christmas stuff, especially NO CHRISTMAS MUSIC, until the day after Thanksgiving. We will not bury Thanksgiving in tinsel, or wreaths or red bows, or early-bird Black Friday deals, nor will we deafen ourselves to it by subjecting ourselves to Mariah Carey screeching, “All I want for Christmas is You” or Michael Buble crooning, “I’ll be Home for Christmas.” Puh-leeeze. (We will address the subject of acceptable and unacceptable Christmas music on THE DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING. Which will not be spent standing in line outside a WalMart fighting over who gets the biggest big screen TV).
- Cranberry sauce must be homemade, from whole berries. No can-shaped gelatinous blobs on a plate, for God’s sake. Have some RESPECT, dammit. It’s EASY. Seriously, just read the package instructions on your Ocean Spray. Water, sugar, boil, berries, pop, pop, pop, chill. Done, yummy.
- Although I do not require anyone else at my table to perform this allegedly death-defying feat, I will make and consume stuffing that is ACTUALLY COOKED INSIDE THE TURKEY. Pepperidge Farm is the only acceptable stuffing mix. Non-negotiable.
- NO TURDUCKENS. See, “Have some respect,” in number 2, above. This goes triple for deep frying on the deck outside. Are you out of your mind? Haven’t you seen the Allstate ad about how many people burned their houses down committing this gastronomic atrocity?
- Mimosas. Mimosas are required. See “cook, drink, eat, not necessarily in that order” above. Rockettes, lip-synching broadway stars, marching bands and giant balloons are actually fun when viewed through the gentle mist of a Mimosa. Just don’t say the other Thanksgiving “M” word (the one that comes before “Thanksgiving Day Parade”) when channel surfing over to the the Chicago parade, because that big store they march past will ever and always be Field’s. Dammit.
I better start making a grocery list and polishing the silver, for our second round of Big Holiday with just the two of us, our child and me.
I’ll continue using the Good China every day, as a sign of gratitude for our memories of Mike, and faith that more Good stuff is coming, for just the two of us, our child and me.