Things: A mother’s lesson

dishesWhen my mother was young, maybe 11 or 12, her family’s farmhouse burned to the ground. Mom, along with her mom, dad, and baby sister, Sally, got out with their lives and a basket of clean clothes.

It was the Depression. You didn’t go to the store and buy new. Neighbors were kind and shared the household items they could spare. For years, this is what they used.

After WWII, economic times were better. My mother and her mother were shopping at Gimbels department store in Milwaukee. They came across a discontinued set of china–a service for 16, with bowls and plates of assorted sizes. Dishes. Dishes that matched. Dishes that would do justice to the bountiful holiday meals that came out of Grandma’s kitchen.

The complete set with service pieces was on sale for $25. Grandma put $5 down. She and mom went home to spend the summer dressing chickens to come up with the balance due.

Things are important.

After the dishes became mom’s, they did justice to the bountiful holiday meals that came out her kitchen. And with every appearance, the story was told: The fire. Making due. Better times. Five dollars down. Dressing chickens. Dishes that matched.

Things are important.

Awhile after dad died, mom downsized, moving into a rented house. There would be room for only one set of dishes. Mom chose to take Grandma’s china. “Life is short,” she said. “I’m going to use the good dishes every day.”

Things are important.

Fast forward a few years to a Thanksgiving Day. Mom, AKA Umma, was living with pancreatic and liver cancer. Grandma’s dishes were placed with special care on the fancy tablecloth. The story was told. We savored all of Umma’s specialties, including her homemade lefse, cranberry-apple-pecan salad, and date balls.

At dinner’s end, I cleared off the table. I placed the dirty dishes on the handy pull-up counter. Evidently, though, I hadn’t properly secured the counter. Four sets of plates and bowls in assorted sizes crashed to the floor.

I looked at mom, horrified.

“They’re just things, Sue,” she said.

Now the dishes are mine. Every holiday meal I tell the story, whether or not we use Grandma’s dishes: The fire. Making due. Better times. Five dollars down. Dressing chickens. Dishes that match. Life is short. Things are just things.

Things are important. Things are just things.

Thanks, Mom.

Sue Edison-Swift5/6/2016

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5 Responses to Things: A mother’s lesson

  1. Bill kees says:

    Things are just things and do carry a story that keeps perspective!

  2. Julie Aageson says:

    Such a poignant tribute to how we are shaped and formed–honoring the truth and acknowledging priorities. Things matter. Things are things. Thank you.

  3. Cecile says:

    Beautiful story Sue. Thank you for sharing it.

  4. Crysta Wille says:

    How wonderful to hear your voice again Sue even though the written word.
    Crysta Wille

  5. Pingback: Thanksgiving present | Sue Edison-Swift

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