because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

The Blessing of The Ugly Casserole Dish

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NOTE: Mine was actually much uglier than this. I kinda like this retro thing.

A little nostalgia, if you will indulge me.

I attended a wedding recently after which I was invited back to the family’s home and had the opportunity to see the bride and groom open some of their gifts, and I couldn’t help but remember how, the day after we were married, as my new husband and I were opening our wedding gifts, we noticed someone had given us a used casserole dish. Yellow and chipped, it was actually even a little dirty.

“Who would give us a used dish?!” I ranted.

Then I read the card.

The casserole dish had come from a distant aunt who was in her early 90s at the time, and quite ill. Still, Aunt Bea wanted to send us something. Her husband, whom she had loved dearly, had passed away by then and she was alone. In her beautifully written penmanship, Bea explained that a dear friend had given her (and her new husband) that very casserole dish that I now had before me over fifty years earlier. She apologized about the chips and dings, but pointed out that the dish had seen her family through the good years and the lean years. That casserole dish had fed them through The Great Depression, fed their children and grandchildren. She told me that – while she no longer cooked her own meals – she still cherished the dish, but now she wanted me to have it.

Suddenly, everything changed. I no longer disliked the old, used casserole dish. I actually loved it. From that moment forward, I always put sweet things in it, like apple crisp or blueberry cobbler.

Several years ago, that casserole dish split into two pieces as I carefully washed it in the sink. It was old and fragile. Its time had come. Nevertheless, I wept. Who knew that something that I had thought represented such a thoughtless gesture would become one of my most precious possessions? It was hard to throw away the pieces.

These days, whenever I attend people’s weddings — while I don’t give them something used — I nearly always give the couple a hand-thrown casserole dish, usually one made by a talented, local potter, and I attach a note explaining the story about the casserole dish. I always wish the bride and groom well and hope that — in the very least — they always have a pot to cook in.

It is amazing how one’s perspective can quickly change when presented with the right lens through which to view things. Ugly things can become beautiful; things that seem like curses can be blessings in disguise. Aunt Bea taught me that sometimes my eyes lie. Sometimes people have to go deeper and see with their hearts.

What is something you have unexpectedly come to cherish?

10 thoughts on “The Blessing of The Ugly Casserole Dish

  1. Beautiful story, Renee.

    1. Thank you, David. I kind of knew you’d like this one. It’s kind of true, right? With the right context, one’s perspective can completely change.

  2. Are you ready for this? My lawn tractor.

    My first wife bought it for me as a gift. We had a large yard with lots of mature trees, and the autumn leaf-raking was killing me. She bought me the tractor with the buckets on the back to just mow up the leaves.

    Our marriage was seldom happy. This was a rare moment in which I felt like she really tried to take care of my needs. It’s one of the few good memories I carry from that mess of a marriage.

    1. I’m glad you have one great memory. It’s always nice when you feel like someone really gets you by giving you the right gift. (I won’t wreck your good feeling by suggesting that really she was just making sure that you continued to mow the lawn.)

      Ooops. Did I say that? 😉

  3. When I was a kid, we would all listen to baseball games on this large radio on his nightstand. It had a timer setting on it, which I couldn’t understand at the time, and hearing that radio turn off by itself was magical. When my father died, I wanted that radio eventhough it no longer works. It reminds me of those magical nights and, of course, my father.

    1. Hi Randi! Thank you so much for sharing that beautiful memory with me. I love that you wanted the radio even though it doesn’t work. I have a few black bowls that were my grandmothers. They are plastic, for goodness sakes, but I like seeing them every time I open the drawer.

  4. Very touching, Renee. I love my CorningWare casserole dishes, my Pyrex bowls, and my Farberware pots and pans. They were given to us for a wedding present 40 years ago and served my family and friends many delicious healthy meals. The pattern may be old, but they’re like new to me.

  5. Aunt Bea would have been taken of your beautiful story of her casserole dish and how it was loved. I even had a tear fall from my eye. Beautiful story.

  6. what a lovely piece you wrote.

  7. Tears on this one. Perspective is everything. What a wonderful and thoughtful gift.

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