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?

Trip Envy: When This Little Spousie Stays Home

My Mate is leaving me, and I’m beside myself…

…with envy. Because he’s not LEAVING leaving; he’s going on a buddy camping trip with an old friend and his son. Guys only. Well, I’m sure I could get myself invited if I made big enough puppy eyes (or threatened to withhold pie). But they’re going for a week. And it’s high season here on Crawling With Tourists Lopez Island. I have to stay and bake.

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Don’t get me wrong. I’m so happy for the guy. He doesn’t get out as often as I do, being retired, nor is he half as social as I am. I get together with my high school Besties every summer. He and his pal have done this only once before. It’s great to watch them piling up the backpacks, stove fuel and water filters. Great to hear all that discussion about what’s going into the gorp, and how many nights in a row they should eat noodles. Just…great.

I’ll be fine once they’re gone. But seeing that map of British Columbia, hearing them bandy phrases like “towering peaks,” “turquoise lakes” and “giant cedars” is making me a little crazy.

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I love where I live. THAT LOOKS SO BEAUTIFUL!!!  I love my daily life. TAKE ME WITH YOU!!!! I love my job. PLEASE... Would you like another slice of pie before you head off on your adventure?

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If you have a partner in your life, do you ever take separate pleasure trips? If so, how do you deal with Trip Envy? Just, you know…wondering.

Weekly Housekeeping Tip: Choose Your Partner Wisely

I fell off my bike last weekend and now my kitchen’s a mess.

No, I was not riding in my kitchen–luckily; that would’ve made for an even crunchier fall than the one I took. But to help you see the connection between the two events, here are some Wing facts:

  1. My Mate is primary kitchen-cleaner (as I am primary cook).
  2. His method of cleaning involves descending to his knees to scrub a different section of kitchen floor or cabinet each day (a constant, slo-mo kind of deep cleaning–incredibly effective)
  3. After taking me to the doctor after my bike crash, the Mate had to go off-island (or, as we say here, “to America”) for a couple of days.
  4. Thanks to said crash, I cannot currently bend down. Certainly not to my knees.
  5. I do, however, continue to prepare food for myself and guests. Therefore…
  6. My kitchen’s a mess.
(Courtesy Cathy Thorne, everydaypeoplecartoons.com), via Pinterest

(Courtesy Cathy Thorne, everydaypeoplecartoons.com), via Pinterest

Don’t get me wrong–I’ve always appreciated the Mate’s approach to housekeeping. But now that I can’t even weakly emulate it, I long for it deeply. When he gets back, I think I’ll greet him in a negligee made of  damp dishrag.

So this counts as both celebration of marriage/partnership, and housekeeping advice: Find yourself a partner who cleans the way my Mate does, and hang onto him/her for dear life! (Or just add an egg to your floor.)

 

 

Celebrating 60 Years of Marriage: You Go, Mom and Dad

What do sixty years mean?
Threescore. Memories of 1955.  A whole bunch of tree rings.
And in the case of my parents, a milestone on a long and winding road of marriage.

As my sisters and our spouses (or, as The Mate calls them, “spice”) and children gathered last week in San Antonio to celebrate our parents’ 60th anniversary, I mostly relaxed and gave myself over to family re-connection, food, and trying to stay cool. (Did I mention we were in San Antonio? In June? I used to be a Southerner, but after 25 years I’ve lost what little heat tolerance I ever had. Went for a run and thought I might die.)
But now that I’m home (aaaahhhh, nice dry 60s air!) I find myself reflecting on the significance of a 60-year marriage.
My own Mate and I have been hitched for 28, and that seems pretty impressive to us. More than twice that? That seems…at this point, frankly, unfathomable.

I hope we get to fathom it. I hope we get to be grandparents together, if our children so choose. I hope we get to sit around sharing memories of a wedding day so far back the mental pictures themselves have turned sepia.

"Photo by Satsuki "Sunshine" Scoville"

“Photo by Satsuki “Sunshine” Scoville”

I’m not worried about the hard work of marriage. After 28 years, who wouldn’t know about that? But 32 more…that’s a long time for two people to stay healthy.
So I’ll leave my reflections with a prayer of sorts from the second verse one of my songs, “Rocks of Ages.” Mom & Dad, this is dedicated to you…and to me and my Mate…and to any of you out there hoping to celebrate the same anniversary someday:

Albums in piles, stretching for miles,
Children and homes and careers.
Stacking our cares and blessings in layers,
Years upon years upon years.
Yeah, life’s mighty stratified, but I’m nothing but satisfied;
Let’s go ahead and grow old.
Call us sedimentary, we must’ve been meant to be
‘Cause the age that we’re heading for is looking like gold.

Rocks of ages, counting the stages
We entered into with these golden bands.
After all of our changes, the only thing strange is
How the earth still moves when you take my hand.

Wow, you guys. Thanks for the example.

Wow, you guys. Thanks for the example.

Got a partnership of your own to celebrate? Please do!