Weekly Writing Challenge: Love in the 21st Century — Pass It Around

There’s love and there’s love. Romantic love. Love of friends. Loving our kids and families. Love for things, for art, for beauty. For our furry kids who bark and purr. How we express our love is as different and unique as we are, as individual as the family who raised us. Love is tempered by its nature and to whom we are expressing it, obviously different if it’s romantic, familial or friend-to-friend.

In my family, we show love by giving each other stuff.

We’ve never been a touchy, feely, huggy clan. Nor are we verbally effusive. We do it with things. With clothing, pottery, jewelry or anything else we have. In this generation, it’s often something electronic but still the same. What exactly we give depends on what we have and what might be needed. It’s most often a spontaneous event. No wrappings or bows.

My aunt once (literally) gave me the coat off her back – in the middle of winter in New York because I said I liked it.

Family 1963 Sometimes, it’s dishes. Or a particularly unattractive piece of pottery. You just never can tell.

You had to be careful in my family. If you admired something you were likely to own it. I admired a stunningly ugly pottery owl that looked like its eyes were bleeding. I wasn’t really admiring it, but was caught in the act of staring. I had to say something. It was a masterpiece of clay sculpting, but a most unfortunate choice of glazes, so I said “Really interesting.” It was, in a ghastly way.

“Yours!” said my mother, obviously relieved to get it out of the family room. I bet she’d gotten it the same way from some other family member.

But the ultimate example of love en passant were the dishes I bought at a trash and treasure barn on a back road in Connecticut during the early 1970s. Most of the stuff in the barn was junk, but with had time and patience, you might find something interesting.

I was poking around in a room full of pottery – I’ve always had a weakness for pottery – when I noticed a set of dishes. I turned one over.

It was Spode. Old. The markings looked to be late 19th century. I counted them. Eighty-six pieces, including a chipped sugar bowl and a set of eight demi-tasse cups with matching saucers. In pretty good condition. Usable. Price? $30. I bought it. I couldn’t buy a set of anything for that price.

They were old, so pretty. But I never used them. I was afraid they’d get broken. They stayed in the closet and gathered dust. Years passed.

One day, my visiting mother admired them. Faster than you can say “Here, they’re yours,” I had those dishes packed and in her car. She loved them, but they were old and, it turned out, valuable. So as I had done before her, she put them away and never used them.

My Aunt Kate admired them, so Mom gave them to her. Kate in turn, gave my mother her set of bone china for 12 which she didn’t need any longer. My mother didn’t need such a large set either, so she gave Aunt Kate’s set of 12 to my brother, who gave my mother his set of china for six. And of course, my mother gave my brother’s dishes to me.

Meanwhile, Aunt Kate gave my Spode to her sister Pearl, who in turn gave her china to Kate. Aunt Pearl packed the Spode away in a safe place, because it was old and valuable. She was afraid she’d break it if she used it.

More than twenty years later, Garry and I went to visit Aunt Pearl. She still had the Spode, carefully wrapped and boxed. She returned it me. She had saved it all that time. Of course, I never used the set and gave it  to the kids who put it away in a safe place.

Sometimes, love comes in a box, wrapped in old newspaper, carefully protected through many years. There is love. And there are dishes.

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Categories: Family, Humor, Life, Love, Personal

Tags: , , , , , , ,

14 replies

  1. A friend of my mother’s gave me, as a wedding gift, a three foot high pottery vahse, boldly colored with what looked to be a kind of free hand Erte-style design. Old enough to be vintage if not antique, and originally, we finally figured out, a lamp base which explained the hole in the base. it was truly ugly. Yellows and oranges fought desperately with greens and browns.
    One winter not long after we were married I gifted it back to my mother for a christmas present, and it remained there for several years. When she had finally had enough of it, she gave it back as a birthday present and I sullenly stuck it in a corner on one of the stair landings here. I kept cattails in it until the day one of them broke and I discovered how many seeds it takes to BE a cattail head…all of them winged and floating, floating…

    My husband’s aunt came to visit one day and was utterly entranced with the vase. In a moment of desperation I said, Flora, you like it, its yours. And it went home with her. Every time I went to visit her over the next 40 years it would be in different corners of different rooms, and she always told me how much she Loved That Vase. I think she was afraid i’d ask for it back.

    She died, sadly, about a month ago, and at some point I’m afraid her son is going to show up with the vase, “Mother wanted you to have this back after she died” or just leave it on the porch, unsigned. I’ll know…

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  2. Loved this. And loved the pic. What a wonderful family memory.

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    • Thanks. It was my mother’s family, obviously. Until I really looked at that picture, I had not realized how much I resembled my cousin Ruthie. This is the ONLY picture of almost the whole family.

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  3. Love the photograph given what I know about some of your family members especially YOU! As for possessions still in my family, I don’t think I want to go there.

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  4. That’s a really interesting family trait. Old scholl living dictated need outweighed owneership. I saw an old man on the farm next to my brother’s just come over and help himself to a front gate that had laid idle for a couple of years. Unused he felt he had an immediate need for it and just helped himself. My brother Ed had to learn the ways of country folk in that respect.

    I carried on that tradition when shopping with friends and relatives. Every interest in an object was filed away in my gift list mind for special occasions. If you sat in a vibrating, heated chair look for it with a bow on it at Christmas. My best friend used to take me to the mall Apple store and lust over a 13″ Power Book. I called him over to my apartment to look at his Christmas gift, unwrapped, but obviously a power book in the trademark Apple box with its own suitcase handle. He freaked of course.

    I had huge issues with possessions not being permanent with my last wife. She just came from a family upbringing where things and the permanent ownership of things was important to her. Not so me. If I see that a need can be met items are passed along to fit that need. The cost of the object is inconsequential.

    We are blessed with material things to use before passing them along. Things come and go. I’m happy regardless of things. It’s one of my secrets to life.

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    • Obviously I tend to give stuff away, though being as poor as we are, I’ve become more careful to hang onto stuff we actually need and cannot easily replace. But I’ve given away mountains of pottery, antiques, books, computers, clothing. And there’s so much more. Ironically, it’s not that easy to give stuff away as my friends are older and not adding more stuff to their lives. Everyone is getting rid of stuff 🙂

      On Mon, Jun 24, 2013 at 10:14 PM, SERENDIPITY

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  5. I must say that I VERY MUCH admire your well-crafted response to this challenge. No, I don’t expect you to give me your ENTIRE brain, but a substantial portion would be very much appreciated (and I promise to USE it, not just leave it in the box).

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  6. Wonderfully true! Thanks for this sharing.

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