Sunday, October 16, 2011

Letting Go

            We bought new glasses this weekend.  I also let go of a fantasy I’ve had for 38 years.

            When I got married 40 years ago 10 different people gave us glasses.  We had harvest gold glasses, avocado green glasses, Libby-leaf glasses, clear glasses, even some blue glasses – several sets of glasses.  It was kind of a joke that we could go a week without washing dishes and still not run out of glasses.

            But we didn’t have a dishwasher in our first apartment, and we washed everything by hand.  At least once a week we broke a glass.  It took a year before I figured out I should buy a rubber mat to put in the bottom of the sink.

            After two years we finally moved into an apartment with a dishwasher!  I also ordered a huge set of monogrammed glasses.  I associated all those green, and gold, and leaf glasses with that first apartment that didn’t have a dishwasher (or air conditioning).  With the move to the new apartment, we would now use lovely new monogrammed glasses. 

            I found the set of glassware in the back of a magazine.  The order came with a set of twelve glasses in five different shapes.  There was the tall 12 ounce tumbler, the short, fat 8 ounce glass, the small 6 ounce juice glass, the 8 ounce glass on a stem, and then the small dessert glass on a stem.  I guess the theory was you could use the 8 ounce stem for wine (sparkling grape juice in our case) or a lovely parfait.  The dessert stem was not really for any beverage, but it matched everything else.

            The sixty pieces of glassware came in a huge box.  It was so clever how every piece had a little cardboard cell that held it perfectly.  My new glassware was so elegant with the engraved “J” on its side.  Forty years ago, everyone wanted their property engraved, and now all of our glassware advertised our name and how elegant we were.  It was all crystal. 

            I discovered that our water was very hard and our crystal got etched when we put it in the dishwasher.  I knew washing glasses – no, I mean washing crystal – by hand was tricky, and things were easily broken, so my monogrammed, elegant crystal would now be just for special occasions.

            Sixty pieces of glassware take up a lot of space in a cupboard, but I kept it where I could see it even if I only used it fewer than half a dozen times a year. 

            We moved twice and eventually bought a dining set that had a large china cabinet with it.  I dutifully loaded all my crystal into the china cabinet.  Sometimes I had to take it out and wash it all – by hand, of course – because crystal gets dusty even in a closed china cabinet.  But I   wanted to have it ready for all my elegant dinners.

            When the children, four boys, came along, it was a long time before we let them use the crystal at the special dinners.  I would set a lovely table with my Noritake china on a blue tablecloth with the lovely monogrammed crystal, but my sons would get a harvest gold Tupperware glass until they reached puberty – sometimes not even then, depending on how they had been acting.

            As careful as I was over the years, one by one the pieces got broken.  The fewer pieces I had, the more careless I got with them.  By the time we made our last move, I left any remaining stemware for a garage sale and moved the 12, 8 and 6 ounce glasses into the everyday cupboard.  I was throwing them into the dishwasher every day, and despite a water softener, they continued to get cloudier and more etched – if they survived getting broken.

            For the past year my husband has been asking when we’re going to get new glasses.  There’s only the two of us here 90% of the time, so as long as there’s something to drink out of, I don’t see a need for new glasses.  My husband, however, likes a clean glass several times a day, and he’s been getting tired of there not being enough glasses.  He’s baffled by my reluctance to replace the cloudy, etched, glasses with the monogramed “J” on the side.

            It’s probably something only women understand (or Australian hosts of shows about “hoarders”), but those glasses always reminded me of the silly fantasies I had at the beginning of my marriage.  We would eat in the dining room.  We would eat on a tablecloth with china and crystal.  And we would have company and special, elegant meals several times a week.  Our children would never spill grape flavored soda on the pale blue tablecloth.   And glasses would never break.  Our life and family would be perfect and elegant.

            My real life was Corelle dishes, Tupperware glasses, washable table tops, spills, paper towel napkins, food on faces, and lots of laughter.

            Every time we broke one of those monogrammed glasses, I could almost hear the cosmic laughter mocking my newlywed fantasy, but I still enjoyed remembering it.

            So now I have a 16 piece Anchor Hocking set of glasses – 8 tall glasses and 8 short glasses.  They’re heavy because older hands more easily hold heavy glasses.  If one of them breaks, no big deal.  Walmart has plenty more.  They also come with no fantasy, because after 40 years of marriage, I’ve learned that it’s not what’s ahead that’s important.  It’s what’s right here and now that is my life.

            But I still think they look better on a tablecloth.


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