Gloria, or let’s use the good china

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This is not the normal beginning of semester post. I tried starting that, but it sounded really petulant, when mostly I’m just sad and tired because my grandmother passed away last week. Yes, it’s busy, and the fear of not doing well is fully present. But it’s no busier than usual really, although the added pressure of throwing an on campus event next week is getting to me. (I apparently still need to learn to not propose ideas or I get stuck doing the work, even when I’m not even on that committee anymore.) The first day was a dizzy swirl of trying to figure out where I was exactly, and the shift in intensity from being at home with family to being here with students in a long row has taken me until today to fully process. My department head who is now on sabbatical/stepped down for happy baby reasons soooo owes me a drink for taking one of her classes, since doing so means I teach four different classes in a row without a break MW.

I impulsively put my grandmother’s wedding china in my china cabinet today. It was not on my to do list for the day. I should be writing or cleaning or cooking. But all of a sudden, it’s what I had to do.

It’s a pattern called Gloria by Theodore Haviland from 1953, one of two by that name Haviland produced. It’s been used precisely twice as far as I know. Once back when my grandparents first married and once when my mother was cleaning some stuff out and reorganizing for grandmommy and pulled the crumbling cardboard box it was in out along with a lot of pink depression glass. I insisted we use it for Thanksgiving that year, and then into better wrapping and a plastic tub it all went. Last September, mom and Terry came up for a visit, bringing the china with them. My grandmother, the consummate pack rat, who never let anything go or threw anything away, wanted me to have it. (Although I think some is still lurking at my grandmother’s house.) I had some china from Crate & Barrel in the china cabinet that was my doll cabinet as a kid. I didn’t know what to do with it, and so the wedding china sat in my closet. Now my cousin Catherine is taking the Crate & Barrel dishes, and this delicate china sits in my kitchen, gleaming. It’s a beautiful, pale pink flower pattern. Both me and entirely not me at the same time. It isn’t a complete set. As far as I know, several big dinner plates are missing and some serving pieces. I’ll probably slowly fill it in, add to it. The tea cups feel like doll’s cups. The plates are so much smaller than our modern, overly huge dinner plates. I want to use it for my friend Jennifer’s baby shower at some point. I want to use it for everything, actually.

My grandmother was not a fancy woman, and this china must have been her nod to a kind of beautiful order that my chaotic family doesn’t quite embody. My grandmother liked nothing better than a loud gathering of family and friends with food, lots of food. Almost every picture of her in the slide show from the funeral involved food, a family gathering, or her holding a baby. This china would never have survived all those events, and yet, I like the idea of having the chaos same in my home and saying damn it all, let’s use the good china, thus treasuring these pieces but also remembering my dear sweet grandmother who spoke to me in Martian and let me call her grandmommy, when apparently that wasn’t what she wanted to be called. They remind me that she prayed for me everyday, prayer I could feel. While it will take many cups to get me to my required caffeination level, I think my Saturday breakfast in bed ritual just got more elaborate.

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