Decor Memoir Parenting

The Blessing of Broken Dishes

Fiestaware, originally uploaded by Choconancy1.

For years, I worked as a Professional Organizer, helping people declutter their little messes. I learned a lot on that little job. I saw how things could represent people and discovered that people could be connected to the strangest things: pantyhose, flip-flops, even mismatched drinking glasses.

I’m not the most sentimental gal, but I collect Fiestaware. The brightly colored pieces make putting the dishes away less of a chore and more of a joy. One or two of the pieces are from my grandmother’s own collection and, though I rarely eat from them, I like opening my doors to my cabinet and seeing them there all nestled in amongst the rest of the pieces. Since she passed away, these few bowls have served as a daily special reminder of our connectedness.

A few years ago, a shelf that held a lot of my beautiful Fiestaware collection caved in and I found myself desperately trying to catch the dishes as they fell, rainbows-colored disks crashing around me. Strangely, in that instant, I remembered all the smashing and crashing in my life. Broken teacups and broken hearts. I realized that when things break, a person has to make choices.

Initially, I wanted to try to Super-glue the smithereens together and attempt to make imperfect things perfect again, but I learned long ago perfection is temporary, at best. I briefly considered taking the busted up pieces and trying to make some kind of mosaic out of all the funky colors and sharp edges, but who has time for that, really? Eventually, I shrugged my shoulders, got my broom and old green dustpan, swept everything up, vacuumed for good measure, and threw all the pieces-parts into the garbage. Not everything can be saved.

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I quickly remembered that I am blessed with good health, a strong family, and good friends. I reminded myself that stuff, while we often like to surround ourselves with it, is just filler.

After I cried a little, I decided I was like an ant whose home had just been knocked over by an unforeseen storm. And everyone knows what ants do; they rebuild. So I pretended that my collection had been cosmically revised and started collecting again. Losing my chartreuse platter was a bummer, but my grandmother’s pieces were spared and, for that, I was grateful.

Over time, I’ve practiced patience, continued collecting, slowly rebuilding. For my 40th birthday a few years ago, several friends bought me a few vintage pieces of Fiestaware; one piece was even chartreuse! Joy can be found in the strangest of places. Who would have thought I’d find so much in my daily dishes?

To what physical items are you connected?

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19 thoughts on “The Blessing of Broken Dishes

  1. I have tea cups and my grandmother’s wedding ring. I miss her a lot. She always made me feel beautiful, when the rest of the world didn’t. I think my most prized possession(s) though are my pictures. Maggie and I often say, “If there’s a fire, we’ll get the kids &; the pictures out first!” To me, those are the things that are irreplaceable. Even my wedding pictures to my former husband (believe it or not) because as my mind gets older, I remember less and less of my past. Sure, I can retrieve them in my mind, but they aren’t as readily available as I would like them to be, so pictures, like music, take me back to “the moment.” Hmmmm…perhaps I should save my iPod too! Oh, and by-the-way, I would have loved the pieces to make a mosaic! 😉

  2. This is a tough issue for me. I am a huge fan of purging clutter. It almost gets to be an emotional response for me, like “I am DONE with this phase of my life …get it OUT of my sight”, but there are things that I find myself hanging on to.

    It has taking me years to realize that some of these “things” are just that, objects that a really not that important and ultimately CAN be replaced in one way or another. I agree with the previous poster, photos are not replaceable. Thank God I have those stored and backed up on my computer. I am also very sentimental to some furniture pieces that have been handed down from relatives and have been recovered, recycled and re-newed. I am all about the re-purposing of items and creating new life for them. I find joy in giving old items a new lease on life. Dishes and what-nots have broken over the years in my house, and yes, you can find replacements for those too.

  3. You know what? I have the tendencies of a ‘hoarder’ in the first class! And, yet, I can’t think of of anything, ANYTHING, that I can’t live without (save my child and my dog) or that I would seriously miss.

    I have “stuff” and it means nothing….even the pictures. The actual memories are worth so much more and are completely non-transferable.

    My grandmother passed away recently. While she was (literally) dying, my almost 13 year-old was going through a box of pictures of hers that we had at the nursing home. None of them meant anything to us (my daughter, myself or my mother)…only to my grandmother…who had lost those memories years ago.

  4. I would love to keep everything I have. I would love to have many of the things I’ve lost or thrown out from my past. The most important things, however, are memories and if they are great memories, I tend never to need reminders. Having said that, I really must consider decluttering now and again.

  5. I am attached to my books, they are ever present around my house. Also clothes, strangely; I’m not a fashionista or anything, I just happen to have clothes that in my mind’s eye I look great in, but in reality I just can’t pull off. I think it represents hanging on to an image that was and never will be me.

  6. Wow. A physical and emotional crash. I totally get that. And I was with you all the way: from try to catch the plates, thinking about gluing or reinventing, to collapsing and rebuilding. Great writing.

    Now I want some Fiestaware. Seriously.

  7. Hi Renee! I’m here from Susie’s blog. This is a great post. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi lynnkelleyauthor!

      How nice to Susie to send people around to meet one another in this way! And thank you for reading one of my early (and very ignored) posts. I rather loved this one. Here I come to see you now!

  8. This is such a great lesson and I learned it after a bunch of my favorite things broke. I started looked at everything in a different way. They are all just things after all! Broken relationships are the same way. It just propels us forward.
    Excellent post!
    I am glad you contributed this today! I can so relate!

  9. Hi Renee. I’m from Susie’s blog too and so glad I stopped by here. Since my husband & I moved alot with the military, breakage was always a hazard. I learned to take the stuff anyway, even at the risk of losing it all, because you want your favorite things around you wherever you are in the world. It’s no good to you in storage somewhere. 🙂

    1. Kecia! Thank you so much for your kind words! I think I have decided that same things: I’d rather be surrounded by the things I love and risk breaking them than just have them safe in storage. What’s the point in not enjoying the things you love? But like life, using those beloved things can be hazardous. Thanks for coming to visit! 😉

  10. The only thing I’ve ever really collected has been Fiestaware and I absolutely cringed when I read about your shelf crashing down. I’m glad the pieces from your grandmother were spared and that you have even started to collect again, that had to be tough. – Emily

    1. You collect Fiestaware? So you could feel my pain, right. *weep* I’m still rebuilding. I should blog an update with pictures. Thank you for making me think of my Gram. I think I’ll start to cook dinner now. 😉

  11. I think the tradition of breaking a glass during Jewish weddings is an important ritual-that makes certain to remind us-in the holiest of times, and even with best intentions, that we can break and things can crack…but we have chai and memories to hold and this is the purpose of our memories and also our duty of ‘passing on’ in spirit through song, prayer and ritual-and most of all-that we do it the best we can, with Hatikvah-our hope. Love you. Great story.

    1. Joanne! Thank you so much for the beautiful comment. I’m learning to make peace with the idea that nothing is solid, that things are changing all the time, and that we must make the most of the tiniest moments because – truly – that is all we have.

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