Twice a year our everyday dishes are switched out. For spring and summer we use Lenox Butterfly Meadow; but, for fall and winter we switch to Grandma's heavy brown Hull dishes. The dishes were made in the USA and Grandma Arrington, who paired socks for more than 60 years at Spencer's, would take a little of her pay and purchase another plate, cup, or serving piece. One of my fondest memories is of Grandma filling a small plate with several of her steaming hot biscuits along with butter and honey swirled together, and sitting me down at her kitchen table because I "looked hongry."
Grandma would give me coffee, more cream and sugar than coffee, to be honest. I would feel so grown up as I would sip from the heavy mug while listening to Grandma and Grandpa talk about their neighbors, their jobs, or their churches. They never attended the same one; this was a sticking point in their relationship until their deaths. There was always a steaming perculator on the countertop full of coffee so strong that it would make your nose burn. There are probably less than three days that I can ever think of there not being a cup of it in Grandpa's hands while a filterless cigarette dangled from the other. Even today, the combination of those smells brings back my childhood and the feel of their kitchen.
The dishes provide not only the touchstone to my Grandmother, long since among those whose name "was called up yonder", to quote her favorite hymn, but also a reminder of simpler times, family times. There was a place in the past when families met every Sunday for dinner with the "folks" and all the aunts, uncles, and cousins would be there. Tables would groan under the many dishes served, jokes told, games played as we learned about each other and our family. Stories, oral histories, would be shared, such as the one of Great-Grandpa John, who was Scot-Irish, accidentially giving the minister a $10 bill instead of the $1 he intended and how Great-Grandma Ziporah had to literally hold him to keep him from wrestling it from the Preacher's hand.
The dishes remind me, too, of the importance of tradition. These were Grandma's every day dishes. And, so, they are mine. They are meant to be used, enjoyed, and, perhaps, broken. They are just "things." The truly important reminder is just that, they are things. The real importance is the memory of hands that had turned more than a million pairs of socks, picking up and admiring a cup, plate, or dish, purchasing it and then filling it again and again with lovingly prepared food. There is the treasure. I miss you, Grandma.