When I was little, one of the things that always made occasions stand out to me was special dishes. Sometimes Mom would use them for no reason at all, like when we’d get home off the school bus to find homemade pudding in fancy glass-stemmed dishes waiting for us to snack on. Or on a random evening when we’d eat dinner off of Mom and Dad’s wedding china that had a green leafy pattern around the outside, accompanied by their crystal glasses and good silver. Sometimes it was just because we felt like being fancy. And that was reason enough.
We weren’t a family that threw a bag of bread on the table or passed around a bag of chips. We put the bread on it’s own plate, or rolls in a basket. We had side dishes in lovely bowls or pottery, and passed all the bowls of food to the left until everyone was served. We sat in our assigned places and said grace, and then proceeded to talk over each other, because eight people around a table could create a lot of noise.
But we sat down together, prayed together, ate together, and sometimes used the good dishes just because being together was reason enough for it to be special.
And then there were the really special dishes.
I brought this up to Mom before Christmas this year, and she was a little shocked that I remembered this because I was so young. But my favorite part of Christmas was always the pretty Christmas plates we used on Christmas Eve. I remember them being the old, more fragile china with an antique-looking Christmas tree in the center. I was wondering if she still had them, [I figured she didn’t… she’s definitely not a hoarder] but I wondered about them nonetheless.
Mom said she remembered feeling like they were heaven sent. We didn’t have much money, being a young family with six kids living on the farm. But one day she was at the used clothing store when she saw these fancy Christmas dishes. The set wasn’t complete, there weren’t the same number of plates or bowls or cups, but there were 8 dinner plates and some lovely serving dishes. Just enough for our family. I don’t know what she thought about when she stood in the store that day. Perhaps she was just happy to have found something fun she could afford. But I do wonder if she paused for a moment to think, “I hope my kids remember this someday.”
Because one kid, for sure, remembers.
So this Christmas, I was all ready to surprise them when they came for lunch on Christmas day with our own set of dishes. They weren’t delicate or fancy. They weren’t a rare find in a used clothing store. But they were definitely purchased with a heart for love and tradition… and for making the simple events special.
While they didn’t make it at Christmas due to the weather, I decided that their visit a few weekends ago would still be our Christmas lunch.
Because I had special dishes. And I learned from my mother that any occasion can be made special. Just because.
Dad brought the appetizers, and I’m happy to report that even when I realized they weren’t little smokies wrapped in bacon, but instead turned out to be dates wrapped in bacon, I still found them delicious.
Dad liked them, too.
And Mom couldn’t help but indulge.
And even though we didn’t need eight place settings, and no one needed to talk over each other to be heard, we’ve found that the peace and quiet of watching a movie while the good food settled in our bellies is just the kind of tradition we like. Most importantly, Riley seems to like it, too. :)