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Sweet Rewards

Thursday, December 26, 2019


Make no mistake.I still have a lot of stuff. It takes a lot of stuff to have a family, to have a decorated Christmas, to sell your own books at your talks. The book inventory is to the right, along with everything I need to set up my merch table at my talks. What a delight not to have to stack and pile and use a flashlight to find my titles! Ahhh! The little improvements, everywhere, are already making such a difference in my life. I don’t have to take inventory every single time I do a show. I can see it all right there.

Looking down toward the pantry and laundry area. I still have enough food to get me through a minor apocalypse. That’s not gonna change. I’m a food hoarder (sung to the tune of “I’m a Girl Watcher.”)

Can’t quite deal with the jumbled bookshelf. I have some folks interested in the ornithological library. Some of it’s mine, but most of it is newer books that Bill brought home from the office. If a title was remotely interesting, home it came, and I had to find a place for it. It was a bit like the hunter returning with an antelope and two spring hares, and his mate having to process it all. There’s a whole lot more lining the north wall of the living room upstairs. Like, enough books to crush me in an earthquake. And I find myself not referring much to books any more. What’s with that? The field guides, yes. The other stuff, I guess I’m looking up online. Ack. As a writer of books, I have to wince.

To have these aisles clear!! Oh my gosh. Spacious and well-lit, my basement has never been. I could iron, if I wanted to, or if I ever needed to. Until that improbable time, the ironing board makes a handy table. For now, a small spray bottle and a brief shakeout is all the iron I need, for the kind of clothes I wear. 


The things you find...Phoebe’s portrait of me, wearing a bird-decorated sweatshirt. I like the lion’s mane she’s given me. 


As I cleaned, I was looking forward to finding a couple of boxes of dishware from my previous life, the one I spent in Connecticut. There, I haunted tag sales and flea markets, looking for the pastel dinnerware I loved to mix and match at the small aluminum and Formica table in my vintage and completely unrenovated 1940’s era kitchen. I had built up a good collection of Fiestaware, my first love, by the time I discovered LuRay and Laurella. LuRay is simpler, unadorned, and was manufactured in West Virginia. Laurella was made by Universal in Cambridge, Ohio, not 45 miles from where I live right now. And there I was in the mid 80’s, collecting the stuff as if I meant to bring it all home to where it was made a decade later. 


I loved the pastel shades and its simplicity, and the way it all looked together. It was springy and happy and sweet. When I moved to Ohio, I packed it all up and put it in the basement. Time to start fresh. I bought 12 place settings of Blue Willow at Kroger, back in the days when grocery stores still sold it by the place setting if you spent enough money on food to qualify for one. And boy, did I spend enough. We used the Blue Willow for 27 years, and every once in awhile I’d yearn for my LuRay, but it was from a different life, and I wasn’t at all sure where it was now, anyway.

I worked and cleared and tossed and made room, and I never found the dishes I was hoping to run across. I surely hadn’t thrown them out; I went through every dang box in that Godforsaken mess before consigning things to stay or go. I searched my memory. I knew I’d given all my Fiestaware to my niece Karen, who uses it to this day. But I knew I hadn’t given away the LuRay and Laurella! The basement was almost done. I was to the point of washing down the shelving so I could label, organize and replace the fraction I had kept. I got out a stepladder and climbed up with a bucket of suds to wash the top shelves in the east corner. And there, over my head, were two boxes, stuffed into the ceiling rafters. I would never have seen them had I not been on a ladder washing the top shelf.  What in the Sam Hill? I eased one down. “LURAY DISHES.” Oh my God! What are these doing in the rafters?? Who puts heavy boxes of dishes in overhead rafters, and why?? 


Bill, that’s who. Let’s get these out of sight. Former lives and all that. For once I was glad he never gave anything away. Had I not cleaned the basement top to bottom, I never would have known what happened to them. Another time capsule, this one left for the next inhabitants of our home. But now here they were, heavy in my arms, and they were mine again, mine to pull down and unpack, mine to bring upstairs and use. Good grief! There were 20 place settings!



The sensual pleasure of handling each plate, bowl and gravy boat, of tenderly washing them and stacking them in their rightful place in the cupboard, was great. I carried the Blue Willow downstairs. I made a simple dinner of roast beef and baked sweet potato and served it to myself on LuRay, and a part of me that had been stored away out of sight and memory came back home. 


8 comments:

How wonderful to see the gentle beauty of your "former" life. New again, life renewed, colors of spring and hope and new beginnings in your above the head, boxes. Did I say "new"? Of course, I did. You can travel from Spain forward, with beautiful drawings and memories saved, and beautiful new memories which are freshly made. I love that you, Julie, can come home to a life where you have sorted some things out. Seeing those plates touches my heart in a way that can not be explained. They are so much like a new fresh springtime. A service for 12 indeed is a harbinger of large joy to come a new. Thank you for sharing again and again.

I remember the feeling of getting myself back.

I am so excited that you're using the LuRay dishes! My grandmother had some FiestaWare that I was fascinated with as a child. After I cleaned out my uncles' house after they died (which was my grandparents house before that), I found the FiestaWare and brought it home. I gradually added more pieces that I needed from garage sales and vintage china shops. Now FiestaWare is my only set of dishes (I don't go for the idea of having "everyday" dishes and "good" dishes. Good dishes should be used every day. Life is short; always use your best.) They make me feel joy every time I see them.

Posted by mimimanderly December 26, 2019 at 5:16 PM

Ah, pure sweetness. We women give up more than we realize living a life that's filled with others and their needs. Not a bad thing, as that's a caregiving life and is needed, but it is a thing. However, it's nice to know the "it" of us is there to reclaim if we want to. Happy for you. Using that dinnerware seems like a beautiful way to start every day. And your gratitude and linking the pieces of life continue to shine through. I love color too but was raised to be beige (and am very earth tone). Just got new glasses - reddish/berry color - and I don't even own red clothing so no more matchy, matchy here anymore. Something breaks through once we reach 60/61, doesn't it?! Thanks so much for continuing your blog. Kim in PA

Those dishes are a.m.a.z.i.n.g. I love 🥰 them. I, too, would use them with love and happy joy. How glad I am, for you, that these treasures were found ...

Time for a big dinner party to celebrate your accomplishment and to bring these lovely dishes back to life.

Hurray for the Luray, and hurray for you! Thanks for continuing the cleanout story. And I've been delighted to see on Instagram that you and the gang have been having such a wonderful time with the experiential Christmas. Happy, happy new year!

P.S. Just gave Saving Jemima as a Christmas present to birding friends. They were properly impressed.

How wonderful it can be to find our otherselves again!

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