Sherry Hopkins Column

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 28, 2008

Collection of ‘good’ dishes keep writer close to mother

Around 1964 my family had an uncharacteristic increase in income. I don’t know what caused the welcomed spike but I think it had something to do with a new position my Mama took. Anyway, things started looking up in our modest little home. Daddy built onto the house and included a huge den, bedroom for my brother and a new kitchen for my Mama. All new appliances were added and Mama was happy.

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Before that time we had always eaten our meals on the old plastic melamine dishes. We had used them so long and so often that the design had faded away. There were only specks of brown and gold in various places.

Shortly after this massive overhaul of our home Mama went to Goldsmith’s department store downtown and purchased new dishes. She had admired these dishes for a long time but didn’t have the resources to buy them. They would have been an extravagance in our home and Mama was never given to extravagance. We were all excited to have pretty new dishes to eat on and could hardly wait for the next meal.

The dishes were lovingly cleaned and placed in the cabinets where they stayed for the next 40 years.  To my knowledge no meal was ever enjoyed on Mama’s new dishes.

Every birthday, holiday or anniversary somebody would gift Mama with a serving piece to her dishes. She would clean each piece and add it to the growing collection in the cabinet.

I don’t know why she never used them. I would always hear her refer to them as the “good” dishes and I would guess no occasion in the 40 years ever seemed quite good enough for those prized pieces. Over the years they took on almost a mystical quality while hiding away in the cabinets. Meanwhile Mama’s little family continued to eat meals on the battered and scarred melamine that we all loathed.

A few months before Mama died in 2006, she gave me the dishes. I had held no particular affinity for the set but accepted them with love and thanks.

Mama and I shared a love for all dishes and bowls in particular and I suspect she knew I would cherish them as she did.

My small kitchen cupboards did not have the room to hold this collection and I wanted to display them so I could be reminded often of Mama. So I recently bought a hutch for my dining room to display Mama’s prized possessions.

The dishes look beautiful in their special home and from time to time I just walk over and touch them. I feel as though Mama had done the same things many times over the years.

But I want to be different than Mama; I want to use the dishes often. I want my grandsons to look at them years from now and remember the happy times when we sat around the dinner table laughing and enjoying ourselves with Mama’s dishes.

You get the picture.