Sunday, September 20, 2015

Platters of Memories...

Today's been a busy day. Hub's returned from hunting with a ton of dirty laundry, and we've decided to sell the camper, which means a complete unloading of all contents. All contents. Complete. This led to a complete reorganization of my house. There is a lot more in a 9' camper than one might believe. Fortunately I found hidey-holes for some things, and hubs dug a couple large empty plastic containers out of the crawl space to store those items to be offloaded into our new travel trailer when we get one, emphasis on when. But that isn't the point of this post.

The point of this post, is that during the puttering required to clean, organize and house all our requisite camping paraphernalia, I also unloaded the bin my mother sent home with me after I helped her box up and clean her recently sold home. Inside were three decorative platters, one with a floral print, another plain white, and a glass (heavy glass) round platter with shallow declinations for separating pickles from cheese, or what have you. Mom's had the platters for as long as I can remember. One belonged to her grandmother. And now they're mine. Grateful as I am, I'm also sad.

These platters used to grace our table when I was a child, full of sliced sausage, cheese, pickles, pearl onions, pickled beets, Vegetable Thins, Ritz Crackers, Nanaimo bars, jumbo-raisin and chocolate chip cookies…savory and sweet, all the goodies one shares with family and friends at Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.; symbols of the two or three days my mother invested to build a grocery list, shop, clean, and prep for the few brief hours our family would gather to celebrate a milestone birthday, or annual holiday, relics of a bygone era, treasures passed to a younger generation, responsibility, nostalgia, trust, and sorrow.

Yes, sorrow.

As I washed the platters, the almost-too hot water reddening my hands to my wrists, I wondered how many times my mother had washed the same platters? My grandma? My great-grandma? And that reminded me. They're gone, my grandma and great-grandma, and with them the memories of dinners past.

Great-grandma's platter.
Photo by Deborah A. Anderson, 2015
What did my great-grandma serve on the floral-print platter, cucumber sandwiches with the crusts removed? Shortbread cookies? Cabbage rolls? And my grandma, what was her favorite dish? She used to make me toast to dip in ketchup, and I remember many turkey dinners, all of us gathered around the laminate-wood oval table, the huge glass-sliding doors reflecting the overhead light and six adult children and their current—if they had them—partners, grandma and grandpa at either end of the table like parental bookends, us grandkids squeezed in somewhere, three on the piano bench, others scattered on parent's laps, but I don't recall if grandma had a special dish, or cookie, she used to make, one the family could anticipate, whether gladly or with apprehension, like my husband's waffles verses my tuna casserole. And she's not here to tell me.

I can ask my mom. She might know. And if she doesn't, I have four beautiful aunts, one of whom might recall her mother's specialty. If she had one.

My mom had many specialties, some I remember fondly, like the jumbo-raisin cookies and wacky cake, and others that still leave a bitter taste in my mouth, like salmon steaks. But my all-time favorite, the one dish that never fails to inspire in me a warm, fuzzy nostalgia, is Mom's pineapple-carrot and orange Jell-O salad. She makes it when I ask her, which is every time I host a family event, and I'm sure she'll continue to grate carrots, drain pineapple chunks, and mix the Jell-O salad at my request for as long as she's able. And that's when the sorrow hit, as I was rinsing the platter…

I don't want to pass the platter on to my daughter. I want to keep it, forever, because as long as I have it, I'm alive, and able. And so is my mother. Because you only pass on family heirlooms when you no longer have need of them, when you decide; either because you're damn tired of shopping, cooking, and cleaning to spend the hours necessary to host a big dinner, or because time, and or infirmity, decides for you. Fortunately for me, Mom is simply tired of hosting. She's been tired for years, which is okay with me.

I like gathering family and friends together, and I will continue to do so for as long as my husband's willing to cook, and I'm able to clean and shop. A year, ten years, thirty…I have no idea how long that will be, but I do know I'll keep hosting, provided Mom keeps bringing her pineapple-carrot and orange-Jell-O salad.


I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It's amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor. ~D.H. Lawrence


Diana Wilder said...

I have the twin of that platter... Well, form-wise. It belonged to my great-grandmother, who also painted china. I have one she painted. Is that where the artistic members of my family got their skill? I don't know. I know she loved little children, was cool-headed in an emergency (when my father, aged three, knocked out his two front teeth, and she calmly phoned the dentist, handed the phone to my grandmother, and then sat my father on her lap and set the teeth back in his mouth and held them there. She looked like a schoolmarm, but painted lovely china, dealt with youngsters, and wept when she knew she was dying and would not see her 'dollies' again.

My father spoke of her with smiles. Isn't it wonderful to have these tangible tokens of those we barely knew, but know we would have loved?

Deborah said...

Hi Diana,

Yes, it is wonderful to have the ties to the past and people we love/loved. I love being reminded of where I came from and what the women before sacrificed to ensure I had/have a good life. Thank you so much for sharing your story about your great-grandmother. Our maternal ancestors were tough women, and thank goodness they were or we wouldn't be here. :)