Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Rabbit trails

I have always wanted white dishes. (If you are wondering what this has to do with the photo above, you'll have to keep reading for awhile, I'm afraid... note the title of this post: "Rabbit trails.")

I have always wanted white dishes, and before Shawn and I got married, I picked out some beautiful white bone china dishes with a scalloped edge. When Shawn saw them, he said, "What? I want flowers on my dishes." First of all, he wasn't supposed to notice or care. Second of all, why did he want flowers, of all things?

So we got the dishes you can see in the twelfth picture in this post. Secretly, although I didn't get my first choice of dishes, I was flattered that he cared.

But I've always wanted white dishes.

Recently, I have been growing tired of my tan and blue Pfaltzgraff every-day dishes. I've had them for nearly twenty-three years now. I don't really mind them, but, I don't know. I guess I am falling into that trap of being American and getting tired of something and thinking I have the right to replace it, even when it is perfectly good and useful. A few of my Pfaltzgraff dishes had broken, but then I attended a benefit for a local Christian school a couple of years ago, and found two huge boxes of this same pattern (used) for sale for something like $15. I was so sad when I bought them and brought them home. I had accumulated enough Pfaltzgraff to last centuries, enough Pfaltzgraff to pull the cabinets right off the walls with its weight (I am not even kidding). I figured that was it; I'd never get a change.

But I'd always wanted white dishes.

So I started poking around, checking the internet, checking WalMart. I found some awesome dishes on the internet: Mikasa Antique White. They are bone china with a scalloped edge. You can get them in sets for much less than buying individual place settings, but to get service for twelve, it would have run us about $300. WalMart had a set of bare-bones basic white stoneware dishes, service for four for $15. So I could get service for twelve for $45 by buying three boxes. I debated and debated. The problem was, I really didn't like them all that much.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, I was walking through WalMart (because I am such a high class person, you know), and I went back to check on my bare bones basic white stoneware. It was GONE. Sold completely out. The next time I went to WalMart (you are, I suspect, discerning a theme here), I checked again. Again they were sold out. I tried not to feel bad; after all, I had not really liked them very much.

As I walked through the store, I rounded a bend and came across a seasonal display of holiday tableware. And there, in the center of the display, were boxes of white porcelain dishes, the kind with a fluted rim.

Service for six cost, get this, $18. Can you believe that? It came with six each of plates, bowls, dessert plates, cups and saucers, plus a large serving bowl and an oval platter (the platter is ridiculously small, but you could put crackers and cheese on it, or crudites). For $18.

I am not an impulse buyer, so I circled the store a few more times before I put two sets into my cart. Then, for $36, I bought pretty white dish service for twelve.

I brought them home, and the agony began. I was torn about packing away my Pfaltzgraff. It has served me well for twenty-three years. It has been part of our lives three times a day, nearly every day.

It took me nearly a week to take the plunge, but yesterday was the day. Yesterday I unpacked the white dishes and packed up the Pfaltzgraff. (To be totally honest, I must admit that I unpacked one box of white dishes a little earlier and set them on the dining room table and started using them here and there to adjust myself before taking the big plunge.)

I had to keep reminding myself, "I am not giving it away, or selling it or throwing it away." Also, I told myself, "These white dishes are very cheap. They probably won't last. And then we will get the Pfaltzgraff back out again. This is a very temporary thing." I have to talk myself through these kinds of things.

While I was working on the project, there was a lot of cardboard packing material. (We are almost to the place where I tie in the photo at the beginning. Are you excited?) As I unpacked, I tore down the boxes and flattened them, so as to keep from frustrating Shawn with a big recycling project. At one point, I took a pile of cardboard out to the recycling bin in the garage. I put it into the bin and jumped in to stomp it down flat with my weight. Somehow, as I was stomping, I fell forward and bumped my cheek, hard, on a plastic oar that was sticking off the end of a shelf.

Which hurt. But it also jogged a most wonderful memory.

We bought this pair of plastic oars to go with an inflatable boat one summer when we were on vacation at Sunset Beach in North Carolina.

Sunset Beach is a south facing island just west of Ocean Isle Beach, another south facing island off the southern coast of the southern tip of North Carolina.

If you walk down to the easternmost end of Sunset Beach island, you can see across a channel to the westernmost end of Ocean Isle. It isn't very far, and one day on vacation, the kids and I decided that we would try to ford the channel in our inflatable boat.

I hope this was not a terribly dangerous thing to do. I prayed the whole time after we got started and my second thoughts kicked in.

Of course, we could not all fit in the boat at the same time, so we had to take turns. I went first; I suppose I was making sure it was safe or some such thing. I'm not sure who went with me, but I think it was DJ and Laura.

Now, you have to understand that the westernmost end of Ocean Isle is a very prestigious, gated community. You can't even access it from Ocean Isle when you are on Ocean Isle. So what we were doing was crazy, gutsy, dorky and possibly even illegal. Also, we were doing it at low tide, and we had to hurry to get everyone's turn in before the tide came in and made it too treacherous.

There was quite a bit of current (undertow?), so it was fairly hard work getting across, but we made it, and pulled up our boat, oars and tired bodies to rest a spell before heading back. There we were, wet (the boat rode low and took on water), tired and sunburned, when an affluent couple walked by and asked where we had come from. Fortunately, they were amused and not angry that we had crashed their private beach.

We headed back to our own island and gave David, Jon and Shannon a chance to try the trip. I do not know what I was thinking, so please don't ask me, "What were you thinking?" I knew how hard the trip was, and now the tide was actually coming in. But my kids are very determined, and I do have a lot of faith in their ability to put their minds to something and accomplish it. They really, really wanted their turn.

So off they went. The problem was, the boys couldn't cooperate on the rowing rhythm. Each was convinced that he was right, and that the other should adjust to his rhythm. This resulted in them going nowhere fast. A bemused man pulled up next to me and watched. I felt a little safer having him there; I figured I could send him for help in case of an emergency. Finally Shannon, who is competent, intelligent and athletic, jumped out of the boat and started to swim behind it, pushing it ahead of her. The boys continued to "row" and the boat started to move towards Ocean Isle. The man next to me chuckled and said, "Those boys have no idea that she is doing everything and they are doing nothing." I said, "Nope, they really don't."

In the end, they made it across and back, and we returned safely to our beach house to regale Shawn with stories of our escapade. What a happy memory of a hot sunny day at the beach.

I wonder how long it would have been before I thought about that if I had not bought new dishes... ?

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