I’m at a bit of a crossroads, stuck looking left and right, wondering if I should or if I shouldn’t. Hmmm, this decision could fundamentally change my future and the lives of my husband and children, yes, and perhaps even the dog and definitely the cats. They, too, will be impacted by this momentous, earth-shaking and, to be more exact, possibly earth-shattering, choice I need to make. Maybe, if I lay it out on the table, even spread it over the kitchen counter and probably sprawl it out into the dining room, by looking at it in the light of day I will be able to come to a conclusion as to whether I should or should not donate our “everyday china” to the village fete crockery smash stall*.
At the moment, Spring Cleaning continues to reign supreme what with Nick FINALLY clearing out the two car garage after nearly ten years of living here so he could FINALLY forgo my annual pleading to “do something out there” so we wouldn’t have to climb over a stack of too small wetsuits bought for ambitious seaside swims in the cold waters of Cornwall, tins of the remains of paint kept just in case we need to touch up a wall or two (which we have never have done), or old bikes with their training wheels on ready to be returned to Toytime where we bought them for when the kids where learning to ride just so we can get to the step ladder, outdoor Christmas lights or the broken rowing machine which “can’t be thrown away because it just needs one laaahst piece so it can work again”(to be said in Nick’s English accent). Even though the laaahst time it swished Nick through an exercise was circa 2007. He FINALLY tidied it up out there so he can park his new car on one side while cramming any un-dumped garage stuff on the other side.
I am carrying on in like fashion in the kitchen and have consolidated the pantry cupboards which have been cleaned out in the recent past. One of the kindest things my friend, Chris, did for me was to declutter the food cupboards around the kitchen when I was doing chemo. It lightened my load somehow losing the old cans of cream of chicken soup, kidney beans and evaporated milk along with old baking chocolate turned grey lost behind the bags and bags of pasta (half used and full) which had taken up space and lingered way past their use by dates in my cupboards. As I’ve confessed in earlier posts, I don’t come from a strict background of household chore maintenance. I definitely am in the “lived in look” school of domestic management, however, I’ve got this cleaning bug most probably because we are approaching the ninth anniversary of our move to Brasted and I realise that this is the longest we have ever lived in a house together. In fact, since I left my parents home to go to college in 1985 this is the longest place I’ve ever lived anywhere and after all this time it has become necessary for me to review the status of things around the house.
All of which has brought me to consider what to do with the stuff in our china cupboard. Come this September when the Brasted Dog and Flower Show will next be held and will host a crockery smash stall*, Nick and I’ll will be celebrating our eighteenth wedding anniversary and I’ve noticed, after eighteen years, a few things about what my mom always called our “everyday china”:
- Nothing matches. There’s five of us who need to sit down at a meal and it is only if the planets align and we are lucky that the dishwasher has been run at the right time we will have five matching plates to dine from. For the most part, there are collections from our original wedding list and random dishes we’ve acquired along the way…a few mad Pampered Chef purchases, a good-deal-on seven white plates “that’ll match everything else” from World Market and cute one off pieces like the the dark blue and white star square plate we put the annual Fourth of July cake on. The best represented set are the ones from IKEA – which will not die. A word of warning to young couples flippantly strolling the aisles of IKEA and bunging in a box of china for your new kitchen while reading this- you will live with those plates for a LOOOOONNNNGGGGG time so make sure you like’em and will be happy to pass them on to future generations unless you are willing to go the crockery smash route should you ever tire of them.
- Of the remaining side plates, dinner plates and bowls we have from the original set we got from the Peter Jones which managed our wedding wish list, most either have been chipped from regular trips through the dishwasher or they have those antiquey, rusty cracks. You know the ones which haven’t quite made it through the entire dish to break them, but are looking suspiciously like they will do so next time you: a) put something really hot on/in them b) put them through the microwave and the glaze around the rim heats up to hotter than a kiln and you are subsequently forced to drop them on the limestone floor where they shatter into, not millions, but gagillions of shards flying across the length and breadth of the kitchen into the dog’s bed.
- There are also multiple gouges in the lips of our favourite coffee mugs. Most of which don’t even come from a set from our wedding list but rather from the different sessions we’ve had at the local paint-your-own-pottery shops we’ve visited with the kids over the years. I can’t seem to resist them on a rainy day with the hallmarks of a family member’s name and year painted on the bottom of the cups guaranteeing an authenticity more definitely than any Wedgewood stamp.
- I know these aren’t technically “everyday china” however they lurch right next to the aforementioned mugs and I can’t help but consider them as well…the glasses. Yes, once again I can confirm we do not have any matching glasses – no chips but equally no matches either to set the table for a family of five. There are the faded Princess and Winnie the Pooh long glasses which have seen so much action over the years you just know your drinking from Eeyore because the glass is ever so slightly blueish grey or from Belle in the lightest of yellows. We’ve also got a three glass “set” from the 2012 Olympics (also faded) which have remnants of lions somewhere amongst the pink (formerly red), grey (formerly white) and powder, baby blue motif. In many ways, now that they’ve faded, perhaps they actually look like they could join the Disney ones to make a set so I might be on to something. Especially because they remind me of some ones I had growing up. My mom collected the jars from Welch’s grape jelly which had Looney Toons characters chasing each other endlessly around the outside of the tumbler. The deal was you could have a “free” glass (which according to my mom was the perfect size for a glass of reconstituted OJ, Tang or to use up in the bathroom to rinse your mouth after brushing) once you discarded the top and removed the jelly contents. Maybe that means I am following in the footsteps of my mom which is always a good thing. Now that I think about it, we ate alot of PB&Js back then and maybe it could all have been a ploy to ensure Mom got a match set for the seven of us. Hey, I think I’m getting somewhere, the glasses are keepers.
Well now all these kitchen ceramics including the mini glass ramekins acquired from splurging on store bought creme carmel which I can never throw away or put through recycling because they are perfect for cats to lap milk from or to use when I want to play sous chef to Nick so he can pretend he’s a real celebrity chef and have all his ingredients measured and doled out all to throw in at just the right time to make a great meal, the pastel coloured ice cream bowls I just had to have because they remind me of eating Edy’s Mint Chocolate Ice Cream (which you cannot get in the UK?!) at my parents house some times, if we were lucky, topped with my grandmother’s chocolate sauce or the Japanese-y looking earth-coloured tan side plates that came with a long ago fondue set which Nick and I got when we were dating and which we would spend hours preparing every kind of food we could think of to chop up and dip into our little cheese fondue for two have all got me thinking. It’s like when I was considering my clothes and cleaning out the closet. Once again I am worried if I’ll be able to remember these details of my life without the keepsake souvenirs to remind me. While, at the same time, the declutter-er in me dreams of having “Sleeping With the Enemy” style cupboards with all items stacked perfectly in neat rows with nary a chip or a mismatched pattern in sight. Sometimes, I love to stroll very slowly through the “Housewares” section of John Lewis just to get a sense of what it could be like if I lived in a showroom like world with all in my kitchen well organised and matching. I have to confess for that matter, I also have to dally in the Bedroom department because our bedroom has the same problem as the kitchen. Yep, the bed linens of our house are also a mash up as well as the towels, oh, and now I’m telling you even the cutlery barely “spoons” any more because the shapes, sizes and styles vary so broadly in that drawer – but I digress.
So what’s this exercise done for me? Has it helped me to decide which way to go – to sacrifice some of my pottery history for the sake of feeling all is in order or do I keep up the facade of being an organised table setter and just live with the eclectic collection of china? I do know it’s made me pause to question – is this all its cracked up to be? (Sorry couldn’t resist the pun). It has made me think I kinda like my diverse and sundry collection in its uniqueness to me. I reckon no one else is gonna have the exact, same set of stuff eighteen years into a marriage; particularly, the stuff worth glueing back together and holding it precious in all its imperfections. The exercise has helped me decide that I’m gonna save anything with a Bennett kid imprint on it, the other stuff I’ll give to a second hand shop to give someone else a go at building an individualised assortment of every day items to eat off. For the really sorry stuff – I’m smashing it! There is a thrill in creating a life. Even more pleasure in living it. But still fun, every once and awhile, to smash things to smithereens for the sheer fun of it.
*I’m not making this up. They really give kids – young and old – cricket balls to throw full on at old dishes to raise money. No protective eye gear. Not to win a prize. Just pay to smash with impunity. Gotta love the Brits.