The wedding plates I selected were a far cry from my mother’s gold-plated antiques which had been handed down from generation to generation. Yellow, pink, and blue flowers blossomed across the face of each slightly different ceramic plate. My plates were optimistic, zany, a little wild–a true expression of who I fancied myself to be.
Paralyzed in the dinnerware section of Macy’s, I fretted over my second decision: how many plates should a bride have? Like Julia Child I might begin cooking feasts for 12! Maybe I’d host dysfunctional family gatherings for 18, at which bipolar relatives and future offspring would toss plates across the room when the conversation became contentious. I hoped to be the kind of woman to say, “Don’t worry sweetheart, it’s just a plate!”
“Is twenty-two enough?” I asked the Wedding Registry Consultant. “What if they stop making them?”
The maternal Argentinean smiled, “Darling, it’s possible that in ten years you’ll be sick of these. You might even want new china by then.”
“Oh no,” I said. “Impossible.” These were my love plates. I’d spent a lifetime of single-hood waiting for this moment.
Yet, there I was, two weeks ago, standing in my kitchen staring at those hateful plates. In the seven years that X and I were married we never had a dinner party for more than four. The most elaborate meal I ever organized was take-out, tossed on top of each flower. The Frenchest I ever got was French toast on Sundays.
Four embattled months after I’d asked X to leave, he was moving out. He hovered like global warming in the other room, packing boxes, slamming books around, daring me to doubt the power of his fury. In the all the time we’d been together, he’d barely complained or argued. He’d merely mutterings things like: “Fine, I’ll do the dishes if you empty first.” Recently, he’d taken to saying No.
No, I can’t take out the trash. No, I can’t move that box, so it won’t crash on the childrens’ heads. No, I won’t move my smelly shoes out of your way, even if they are sure to trip and kill you.
I packed all 12 remaining sunflower dinner plates into a box labeled with his name. I gave him all the pink and blue wildflower mugs except for two, which I kept for survival purposes. I packed what was left of the salad plates. (As anticipated, my two-year-old recently took one and hurled it across the room, further reducing their already dwindling number.) I reached around the bottom cabinet until I located 10 dusty Spanish hand-painted plates–a gift from a family friend.
Some time after our wedding, I had discovered that the Spanish plates cost $100 apiece, which had made them too fancy to use on a daily basis and too thoughtful to exchange for something practical. They’d been stored away for a special occasion: that dinner party that never happened.
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