Yes, we’ll use the pretty plates
I'd wanted Southern Vista, with its hues of red and colonial blue. But that pattern wasn't available for online sales at the time - an essential with my cross-country family - so I opted for its greener, duskier second cousin.
I dreamed little-girl dreams of dinner parties and happy guests, just like I'd served to many a contented doll when I was a kid. It didn't work out that way in real life.
The guests came for a while, but many wouldn't use the china.
"What if I break it?"
I'd shrug. "It's just a plate."
Then, dissatisfied with the menus I'd plan, some would bring their own food. Or people would complain that everything was homemade - that one really floored me. It got to be more hassle and stress than it was worth, so I quit.
The china gathered lonely dust in the cabinet for years after that, until Big Guy got old enough to tip-toe up and peer at the gold-rimmed plates.
"When can we use it, Mom?" he'd ask.
I always had an excuse. The dining room was too junky or I didn't have time to wash them afterward or pizza really wasn't grand enough for Lenox.
"Please, Momma!" he'd plead - he's always called me Momma when he really wants something. "Can't we eat off the pretty plates?"
And so it went for years, the grime growing on the china in its cherry-wood crypt. Dad wanted to ditch them when we moved, and I cringed at them going for 50 cents a plate at someone's yard sale.
"Who is ever going to eat from them?" he asked.
"We are," I vowed as Big Guy grinned.
And we did, the first Sunday after the boxes were unpacked. Boots' eyes popped when I sat a crystal mug in front of his plate. "I can't use that," he gasped. "It's glass!"
I shrugged. "It's just a cup."
It wasn't a grand meal - a simple stew, a platter of rice, salad and bread - though it was a step up from pizza. It was a grand time, though. It seems that expensive dinnerware elevates the behavior of people not quite old enough to realize what expensive is.
Big Guy has anointed himself the "passer," in charge making sure everyone's plates and glassware are filled. He's offended if you so much as pick up a pepper shaker.
Boots politely requests that the "passer" fill his plate and waits patiently to be served.
Bickering is minimal, and the guys even chew with their mouths closed.
Pretentious? Maybe a little. But it's also a bit magical to see how the slightest extra effort on my part transforms the snarling beasties into something approaching civilized boys.
Five weeks later, not a single dish is dinged or chipped. And so what if one does break. It's just a plate. We have a service for 12 - there are plenty of extras.
Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.