A few months ago I made a deal with myself. I either had to start using my fine china or I had to sell it. Before we go any further, I need to remind you I’m a Mississippi girl. (Technically, I was born in Louisiana but I only lived there for a couple weeks before we moved to MS and if you heard me say “y’all” you would know I’m a Mississippi girl.) Fine china to a Mississippi girl is supposed to be a big deal, so when it came time to pick out china we mulled over all the styles. (And by “we” I mean I held up one billion white plates that all looked the same save this flourish or that filigree and asked Matt which ones he liked. Of course, I not-so-gently nudged him to the one I really liked. “Don’t you like this one, dear?”–as I shoved it in his face. Poor fiances should be excused from all registration responsibilities except shooting the little laser gun, but I was young and naive and didn’t know that at the time.) So said china has been with us for eight years now, and we’ve used it maybe six times.
For the first five years of our marriage (aka pre-kids) we did dishes maybe once a week (gross, I know) so it was completely unrealistic to use the fine china because you can’t scrape that stuff like you can dishes from Target. And, trust me, after a week of sitting in the sink those things needed a pickaxe. (Side note: I don’t know why I complain about my house being so much messier post-kids. Apparently, it was just as bad before. I just wasn’t home all day to see it.) Once kids come along, dinner becomes about 9.5 minutes long as you scarf down your food while cutting up chicken into bite-size pieces and catching sippy cups flying through the air. And fine china is just laughable. Because the plastic sippy cup might bounce, but fine china doesn’t fare so well.
Confession–during our wedding showers we got an extra dinner plate in addition to all those place settings, but instead of returning it for store credit I kept it. Because it makes me feel better to have a Plan B in case one gets broken. It sits in the cabinet above the microwave still in its plastic wrapping. While the rest of the china sits in a china cabinet looking pretty but rarely being used.
I have this thing (it’s called perfectionism) with objects being in pristine condition. A couple years ago we painted the cabinets in our kitchen. It was a four-billion step process but the finish has held up really well. Except this one spot on the pantry door. It’s the door I open the most and there is a little spot right next to the handle that is now worn down so you can see the original oak finish shining through–taunting me. The door is worn there because I use it. Because I open that door to get the honey to refill my honey jar, to get the raisins to appease the one-year-old latched to my legs while I’m finishing dinner, to get the olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dress our salad. I touch that door, I use that door all the time, and every time I see the little mark.
My daughter is teaching me a lot about living in freedom from perfectionism. Last year, her grandmother gave her a pair of gold sparkly shoes from Target. They are her absolute favorites. She wears them every single day, with her tutus, with her flower girl dress, with her princess gowns, even with her pajamas. Most of the gold glitter has worn off, but she doesn’t care. She knows they are shoes and shoes are meant to be worn, not kept in a box. And plates are meant to hold food, not gather dust.
Last Saturday, we had Nicu over for dinner. Nicu has become a dear friend of our family over the past few years, but this was the first time the girls and I got to meet him. Matt met Nicu a few years ago and we’ve gotten to partner with him and his family as they serve with Campus Crusade in Romania. Matt and Lydia went to pick him up Saturday night and I was finishing up our dinner–maple balsamic pork tenderloin, roasted sweet potatoes and Brussels and sour cream biscuits. I went to the cabinet to grab the Target dishes and stopped. No, tonight I was choosing things that might break.
I pulled out the white dishes with the thin stripes and little gold dots–chosen because the pattern reminded me of our wedding invitations–and I set the table. Because the day will come when it’s time to pass down my china to my girls, and I’ve decided I would rather give them one plate that’s chipped and cracked but holds a thousand memories and heard a million stories than a full, pristine twelve-piece collection that never got used.