Broken Plates

I’m thinking the first holiday in a new home is defining, sets patterns, or may bring new insights on the past. When we went to unpack dishes for Thanksgiving dinner this past week, we discovered a tragedy of our move; four of our family’s special dinner plates, from throughout my childhood, and my children’s, were broken. The box had sustained two long moves and nine years in storage. Not entirely surprising, but a shock all the same.

We called it our “Spode”. “Shall we use the spode tonight?” Mom would say. That meant it’d be a special meal and we’d take extra care. We’d go out into the sprawling, woodsy yard to find flowers and colorful branches, to make a wild bouquet for the table. At Christmas time, we cut holly. My parents loved to tell how the tree never produced berries until they got a male. I’ve since read that this is called “dioecious,” meaning they require both male and female plants for pollination to occur and berries to be produced.

I never knew what Spode meant, but didn’t really question it. Only now, with the sight of some in pieces, did I turn an unbroken one over to find–ah ha! — the name Spode. I looked it up: “Fine pottery or porcelain made at the factories of the English potter Josiah Spode (1755–1827) or his successors, characteristically consisting of ornately decorated and gilded services.”

These plates were special to me and it broke my heart to see them shattered, to hear the sound of their shards grating together. By the next day, I thought “this is right.” Sorry as I was, it felt like an appropriate physical manifestation of the hurt I’ve felt, over the years, since we moved these plates away from my parents’ house before it was sold. away from the place where we had large family meals full of laughter and good cheer. Dinner plates, dessert plates, large platter. Throwing away part of the set reflects the jarring, grating feeling of all our Christmases since – each awkward: semi-welcome in my brother’s new wife’s house, or all meeting at a sterile rented beach house. This year at least we’re setting up our new place, with old family decor around us, able to make it ours, with a wood-burning stove reminding us of my folks’ fireplace, a focal point of every winter holiday. Like the broken dish set, some is still here, still familiar. Some we have to say good-bye to. We’re a partial set, building back toward some form of wholeness. 



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