because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

The Blessing of the Ugly Casserole Dish

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photo by Stacy Lynn Baum @ flickr.com

A little nostalgia, if you will indulge me. My husband and I attended a wedding this past Saturday night: Fifteen years and two days after our own wedding day. The day after we were married, as my new husband and I were opening our wedding gifts, we quickly noticed someone had given us a used casserole dish. It was yellow and chipped; it was even a little dirty. I ranted: “Who would give us a used dish?!” I was astonished and, frankly, pretty pissed.

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 hated the old, used casserole dish; I cherished it. It was infused with so much meaning, and over the years I used it all the time. I always put sweet things in it: apple crisp or blueberry cobbler. So many yummy things.

Not too long ago, my 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.

Now whenever my husband and I attend people’s weddings — while we don’t give them something used — we nearly always give the couple a hand-thrown casserole dish, usually one made by my husband’s uncle, Earl Jacobson, a talented, local potter, and we attach a note explaining the story about the casserole dish we received on our wedding day. We always wish the bride and groom well and hope that — in the very least — they always have a pot to cook in. (Then we stick a check inside!)

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?