A souvenir is a long-ago collected piece of our lives, lost and found. It is cherished, not for the price it might bring on ebay, but rather for the time, now gone, that it represents and the time travel it affords. 100_2931aThis Mikasa china platter with sugar and creamer is but part of a large set. I picked it out at the age of eighteen. My first choice, a Japanese pattern, charcoal with a purple orchid, met with jeers from my husband at the time, my oldest son’s dad, whether because it was feminine or because it was Japanese, I’ll never know. This English pattern was my second choice. My father-in-law noticed the raised ridges and nodded with approval, calling them “sideboards.” Before my wedding day, I had over twelve full place settings. Days after the wedding, my former husband mustered in to the Air Force, and we ran off and left our china and everything else we owned, moving all over the U.S. Too many years to number have passed, seeing me through the birth of my first child, my eventual college graduation, and my divorce from my oldest son’s dad when my son was six. I lived many years rebuilding the household I had run off and left so many times, cobbling together odds and ends for dishware and the stuff of life I no longer had. Last weekend, my oldest son invited me to his new apartment. We put food together and made a meal, and he invited me to go through the boxes he had retrieved from his dad’s storage unit. There, to my shock, stood my Mikasa china down to the last tea mug. It was as if an old friend had come to visit. The joy was not in the things themselves but in remembering the time when I was eighteen and cluelessly picking out china patterns as if I had any experience or business looking at anything as refined as Mikasa ceramic ware. Each individual piece had a story, tales of his dad’s mom, no longer with us, of my mom, of my dad, now dead twenty years, yarns of horrific culinary disasters and my first apartment on the Gulf Coast beach at Biloxi, Mississippi. More than anything, I enjoyed spending time with my son and his fiancee, dividing up the insanely large number of place settings (we split it six and six), and sharing memories of his toddler-hood. He even saved his earliest sippy-cup and remembered which color was his and which cup his childhood friend Addie Baker used. Things don’t have meaning in themselves, I have learned, but are given value by the people who use them, or in my case, those who never get to use them until they finally come home to stay.

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Writer, mom, reformed culinary disaster. Maker of legendary potato salad.

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