I have this gorgeous china that I inherited from my grandmother. It belonged to her grandmother originally and may have entered family possession even earlier than her. My earliest and only memories of that china involved it sitting in a glass cabinet where we were scolded if we so much as stumbled in the general vicinity of it. When she died, none of my other cousins wanted it and since I had mentioned liking it, it fell into my possession. It saddens me to think of something once highly treasured by a woman at some point in her life to have fallen to dusty disuse.
My Mom dutifully packed the china and B dutifully drove it to me from Texas. It lingered in boxes on my counter for a month, taunting me with the need to put it away, and greater a warring thought in my heart.
I have no warm childhood memories of this china. I possess even less of the woman I inherited it from. My childhood is peppered with reminders that we were not the desired grandchildren. Christmases as the only grandchildren without gifts. Family dinners that didn’t include us – I wonder if they ever used the china for those. Missed events such as my graduations and recitals. This china may once have held fond memories, but now it is little more than pricey breakables that gather dust.
My first thought involved tucking it away, out of sight, never to be used. But, that’s what she wanted for it. She never wanted anything used. Once something broke in a set, it forever found itself relegated to an out-of-the-way cupboard, never to be used again. I own all of the glasses with one missing from the set, that I never recall even spying once as a child.
The boxes of china, so dutifully packed by my mother and transported to me by my husband, sat tightly packed on my counter for close to a month. Each time I passed them, a tiny thought stabbed at me. I ran from the thought that she wouldn’t want me to have them. That she certainly wouldn’t want me to use them. That someone had once treasured these plates and proudly served holiday meals from them.
Tonight I ventured home from work with one thought on my mind – to ignore all responsibility and just enjoy the evening. I intended to skip all the responsibilities. But, when we came home from dinner, I unpacked a few of the wedding gifts we’ve received and never stopped. An hour later, the china is tucked away into a cabinet. It is out of sight, but that’s because I don’t own anywhere to display it. I followed the unpacking with a run and during that run this thought came to me – I cannot run away from my family history.
I cannot run away from the memories of a grandmother who never loved us the way she loved her daughter’s children. I cannot run away from the feelings of never being good enough for that side of the family. I cannot run away from the certainty that I’ve never quite belonged because of those facts. I cannot run away from the knowledge that she wouldn’t have picked me to be the one to have the china.
There’s no where on this earth to escape those demons, even if I spend my whole life running. Instead, I will have to unpack them one at a time, carefully unwrapping each and feeling the delicate strength in them. Throwing out the dishes that some girl once lovingly unwrapped and used doesn’t make that go away. Imbuing new life into them, though, that just might be the answer.
The china dishes are unpacked and sitting on a shelf. They can’t be seen – much like my family demons -but they will be used. In using them I will give them new life, new memories, new importance. One dish at a time I will wash away those demons and replace them with love and laughter.