A letter to the grandkids
Darlings, you see the brilliance of the peaches on this plate, the depth of hue and shade in the leaves and stem, the pink and yellow glow of the just-ripening orb in the upper quadrant?
Faded now, those hand-painted pigments. Yet here and there they sizzle, so vibrant are they, that you can almost see the orchard, smell the rotting fruit on the ground, feel the flies buzzing round your feet, pull the ripe peach from its stem, rub away the fuzz, taste the sweet juicy flesh, the slightly bitter skin.
Once upon a time, when your Great Granny, my mama, was a strapping, strong teenager, the rim of this plate shone with thick gold. There, you can see the remains of that gold, lost down the drain over many washings by garden-toughened hands. Then, there were no chips in the edges. Granny, proud of this one piece of good china, brought it out for every birthday, every occasion that warranted a homemade cake, fancy or plain.
You might wander where she got such a dish, her beginnings being ever so much more humble. Well, it was just from that humble life.
As a teenager, not allowed to go to school for fear it might corrupt her morals, Granny earned a little pin money cleaning house for a wealthy old neighbor woman. Mrs. _____, I no longer remember her name, in gratitude one day gave your great granny this plate, as a thank you for her good work and care of all the fine lady’s fine things.
Perhaps you’re wondering about the other pieces in this image as well. The small rose tea pot belonged to my grandmother, your great-great grandmother. The hob nail raspberry glass candy dish is one of a pair given to Great Granny and her groom, your great grandfather, on their wedding day, all those many years ago. I don’t know where its mate is.
Perhaps Granny gave it to another of her children who coveted the pair as I did. I’d rather not have had it, than to break the set, but perhaps the mate shattered in some mishap or other. What I do know, is that the pair remained intact nearly sixty years, through many moves across states and country, before this one came to me.
One day, these faded treasures will be yours, to cherish as I do, for the memories of hands that used them, voices laughing in melodic alto tones. We tend toward alto voices, the women of our family, mellow and rich. Or perhaps you’ll choose to discard these dishes as spoiled, worthless pieces, no longer holding value, sentimental or otherwise.
Sentimentality gets a bad rap, I can tell you. But like everything else, it has its place. Whatever treasures you keep to remind you of the faces, long gone, you once loved to see smiling into yours, keep them for as long as the sight and touch of them gives you pleasure.
When they no longer hold brilliance for you, let them go. But before you do, check with your cousins and your children, if you have any by then. Sometimes a worthless piece of junk in one hand is a vibrant treasure in another.