Picking Your Pattern: On Dishes, Color, And Marriage

This morning’s poem from Poetry Daily got me thinking about small daily pleasures. I’ll share the poem in a minute. But first I want to talk about color, and dishes. And then, maybe, marriage.

For Christmas two years ago I asked my Mate to buy me a set of eight plates made by a wonderful local potter. Of course I wanted to choose them myself, or commission them, rather, and here’s what I asked Lydia the Potter to make: two green, two gold, two blue, and two red plates, all with different designs on the rim. Here’s what she made me:

I KNOW, right?

I KNOW, right?

Why not matching? Because, #1, I LOVE color, so how could I possibly choose? And #2, Lydia, like me, is an I-love-it-all gal, so how could I possibly choose ONE of her patterns?

Right??

Right??

That intense color, those simple-but-varied designs–they make me happy every single day.

My original “dish pattern” makes me happy too, but only when I think of the story behind it. first of all, here’s all that’s left of the set, which my Mate has owned since 1978:

Dictionary definition of "plain."

Dictionary definition of “plain.”

Okay, whoa. My Mate owned these dishes first? Almost 40 years ago? And yet I’m calling it my pattern? There’s a story here, right?

Right. I first met my Mate when I was 16 and he was 31. I was a high school student; he was a young law professor at Carolina who happened to be a good distance runner. He joined my parents’ Sunday morning running group and, being both incredibly magnetic and also very far from his own family, was soon adopted by mine. (I had a huge crush on him, but that’s another story.)

My Mate lived alone in a weird, cavernous house furnished with a hammock and one wicker chair. He owned a single set of dishes. All his possessions easily fit into his Tradesman van. Very convenient for a bachelor; not so much for a bachelor who has befriended a family of five. If we came over to his place for dinner, we had to provide our own dishes.

One day my dad told my sister and me to take his credit card and go to Best to get Ken some dishes. “What kind?” we asked, baffled. “A whole set,” Dad told us. My sister and I looked at each other. “You want us to pick out his dishes? What if he doesn’t want any?” “Oh, just get him something plain,” was Dad’s breezy reply.

So…we did. Good, basic, cheap stoneware, as plain as possible.

Fast-forward a year and a half. This man is now my boyfriend. Fast-forward another eight and a half: now he’s my Mate. And another 29 years later…he still is.

So, those dishes my sister and I bought our family’s friend? Turns out I was picking out my own wedding pattern. Who knew?

Now, back to that poem, by Nina Lindsay:

My Bare Feet

on the floor of our house, early morning 
make me immeasurably happy 
the slight chill counterbalancing the heat

of coffee spreading through the brain. 
Nothing, I think, could make me happier 
except—my bare feet

on the tight-wove wool pile of our faux-antique 
Persian rug, or my hands on this bowl 
or this bowl

or this one, 
or my lips on your lips, soft 
as air rushing out of the oven,

or my fingertips 
across the oven’s white enamel, 
its one nick.

Each morning I review my evidence—
and the floorboards turn imperceptibly darker 
and my hands keep the settling dust alight.

Should I talk about marriage now? Do I need to?

2 thoughts on “Picking Your Pattern: On Dishes, Color, And Marriage

  1. Just lovely, Gretchen. Now that I think of it, I never got to pick out a pattern. Instead inherited Len’s French china and his everyday dishes, too. He and I were sort of a reverse of you and Ken because Len had the dishware and I didn’t. Hmm.

    And here’s a poem you might like…. in a similar vein:

    The Patience of Ordinary Things By Pat Schneider

    It is a kind of love, is it not? How the cup holds the tea, How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare, How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes Or toes. How soles of feet know Where they’re supposed to be. I’ve been thinking about the patience Of ordinary things, how clothes Wait respectfully in closets And soap dries quietly in the dish, And towels drink the wet From the skin of the back. And the lovely repetition of stairs. And what is more generous than a window?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s