The prospect of a neighbourhood garage sale had us dusting off old books and excess kitchen ware, and digging out outdated electronics from the cupboards and rafters. What started as a combination of house cleaning and gleaning-of-stuff for the sale turned into a twist of fond memories and cringe-worthy nostalgia.
I have a slight habit of saving everything; my thriftiness and sentimentality my own worst enemy. When a cleaning bug hits, however, I seize the moment and let my deep-seated minimalist side emerge; I pitch as much unused stuff as I can. But when I opened a barely used cupboard housing my 22 year-old Corelle dishes, I had a moment of nostalgia that rocked me off my momentum. I could never rid of the dishes steeped in history; the thought of slapping on a piece of masking tape with some insulting low price, barbaric.
When I was 18 years old, I travelled to Boston, Massachusetts. I was living in Richmond, British Columbia at the time, so that was a big trip for a young, naïve girl. Distant family friends in Waltham put me up, but they had to work and I was my mostly on my own. I had been there four years before with my family and had a vague idea of where I was going, so by foot, bus, train and subway I zigzagged from one side of Boston to the other. I saw everything historical from Paul Revere’s house to the State House, and can say I went to Harvard University – I have the T-shirt to prove it. And just to add to my history-laden experiences, I watched the beginning of the Gulf War on the news with my hosts.
History aside, I was also keen to shop. From the marketplace at Faneuil Hall to K-mart in Waltham, I was eager to find treasures different from my homeland across the border. With stars in my eyes and the taste of freedom on my tongue I was also planning my future and had already been saving household stuff for my apartment I supposedly was going to have one day.
But of course, I couldn’t buy simple things like a potholder from Boston to bring back for my future apartment. I had to buy dishes.
And little did I know that the Corelle dishes I purchased from K-mart in Waltham, Massachusetts for $9.99 would eventually have their own history to tell.
Those dishes would sit in the box unused for two years until I got married – I never got my OWN apartment. They were used during my first few newlywed years, only to be replaced by an updated pattern – of Corelle brand, of course. The dishes sadly made their way to the back of a cupboard, but were never far from my mind. They had a history.
A few years later we moved, and during our packing and cleaning my dear husband passed on a box of excess stuff which, unbeknownst to me, included my dishes, to his mother. When we went to their house not too long after, I was gleefully surprised when she cheerfully served us dinner on MY dishes I apparently gave her. I couldn’t eat.
After a night of tears mourning the loss of my dishes, the dutiful man he is crawled back to his mother and explained the situation. My own be-heading was inevitable, but at least I would have my prized dishes back.
I got them back, but it was a non-topic for a long time, and luckily the situation soon blew over.
Years later, the dishes were put back into circulation, but after a plate broke and a mug chipped (they are supposed to be unbreakable), and given that I was raising a house of raucous men, I figured they were safer stored away. I didn’t want my precious dishes – a piece of my history – to be ruined forever.
So 22 years later they still reside in a cupboard. I piled all the other garage sale stuff on the floor, but took a moment to pull out my dishes to admire and remember. They, ahem, weren’t washed thoroughly so many years ago, so I washed them to a keen shine, and put them back in the cupboard. Over 5,000 km they travelled, and through three moves, two kids, and a near-fatal family rift, they have survived. They have a priceless history that could never be sold or bartered.