When our daughter announced that she wanted mismatched china plates for her wedding reception my mom and one of my sisters got to work collecting 200 dishes for the occasion. I spent nearly a day at the sink, peeling off stickers and washing the old beauties in warm soapy water.
Each plate brought with it a history. There were the delicate florals stamped "Occupied Japan" and complete sets of eight from China. There was sturdy stoneware with awkward marigold and pea green patterns from the 70's and lots of hearts and ducks from the 80's. Some plates were signed by their designers. There was a lone polka-dotted one from Weight Watchers. Two porcelain dessert plates had round indentations meant for a coffee cup. Many patterns I recognized from my youth.
As I washed each plate I thought about the kitchen and dining room tables they once graced, imagining what sorts of meals were served on them. Was this set only used on holidays? Did a family with lots of kids eat their weekend breakfast on these? Did a happy new couple register for this pattern before they wed? Did a widow eat her dinner on this plate because it reminded her of meals spent with her beloved?
The plates served a great purpose this weekend as we came together over a meal to celebrate our daughter and her new husband; a new history added to each dish. We plan to donate most of the plates to a women's shelter, hoping they bring bring joy to many more families.