A Mother’s Curse

We have all been cursed by our mothers.  You know the one, when, as a child we’ve tested the edge of her patience and she’s blurted out angrily how someday we’d end up having children just like ourselves.  And then we would roll our eyes at her (because we were never having children, duh!) and maybe utter a half apology.  Some of us grow up to indeed have kids just like ourselves; bratty, emotional, stubborn, or tantrum prone.  But some of us grow up not to necessarily be cursed by the kid, so much as a thing.  For me, it is the curse of a spare plate that has been handed down.

It was the late 1950s and my grandmother had a set of sunny yellow melamine dishes.  She also had a single blue plate.  It was an ugly blue plate and no one knew where exactly it had come from.  But, grandmother also had five daughters, which meant that her setting for six in yellow wasn’t enough to set the table with.  Every evening someone had to use the awful blue plate.  Which ever sister set the table that night would place it in front of the chair of the girl she had the most beef with at the moment.  Then of course arguements would ensue.  No one wanted the hideous blue plate and night after night, my poor grandmother had to listen to the squawking and wailing of her daughters fighting over it.  One day she was able to replace the blue plate. I’m not sure if she was able to get another setting of yellow dishes or what, but I’m sure whatever she paid was worth the peace at meal times.  The blue plate was slipped into the trash can, never to be fought over again.

When I was a child, around 8 or 9 years old maybe, my mother had a set of Corelle dishes.  They were cream coloured with a sage green ribbon that ran around the edge.   They were strong and practical.  She also had a few odd pieces from an older set that we no longer used, including one stonewear plate. It was white with a scalloped edge.  The three of us kids called it the Up And Down Plate.  It was a special plate.  It was a coveted plate.  We fought like cats and dogs over this plate. We whined about how unfair it was or pleaded that it our turn to use it.  Which ever one of us that got to set the table would always place it by our own chair, only to be stolen, swapped out, and reset at some other kid’s chair.  It was downright torturous to watch a grimey little brother eating off of it.  That up and down plate drove my parents bonkers, too.  No matter what they said or how vehemently they threatened,  we wouldn’t stop fighting over the dumb plate.  One day my parents finally snapped.  It was the sudden crash that brought my brother and I downstairs.   Then it was the eerie,  gleeful cackle from my mother that made us stop.  My father had smashed the plate in the middle of the kitchen floor.  I’m pretty sure he had done it on purpose because my mother was jumping up and down on the pieces. After they swept it up, the special, beautiful up and down plate was never spoken of again.

My husband and I bought our dishes from Ikea.  We got a nifty set of charcoal grey ones that looked cool and hip on our high top table with the white table cloth and red napkins.  But, as a plate broke here and a bowl smashed there, not to mention going from one kid to three, we had to go back for more dishes.  Unfortunately, Ikea has stopped carrying our particular charcoal grey dishes, so we got a set of standard white.  They are plain and practicle and actually look really awesome when mixed and matched with the grey ones.  Except, now we are down to three small plates.  Those are the ones the kids use for dinner, and one of them has a chip in it.  It is called The Broken Plate.  My children love the broken plate!  They race to be the first one to request it and sulk if they don’t get it.  Every single meal time is a fighting-pleading-whine-fest over someone else having the plate and at least one kid declaring a hunger strike over it.  Last night my oldest got the plate and my middle child began that painful high pitched scream that makes you sure your ears are bleeding.  I asked him very nicely to quiet down.  I explained that it was just a plate and his fish would still taste just as good.  I begged my eldest to give it up, however the mere suggestion nearly caused a tantrum.  I demanded my son to stop screaming.  At this point all three of my children were crying and no one was eating.  I lived with the ear piercing noise for eight and a half minutes before I calmly slid my son’s food onto a plastic plate that was stashed in the back of the cupboard.  Without a word, I stepped into the middle of the dining room and let the chipped plate drop.  Ah, what a satisfying sound!  The smash was liberating and the immediate silence from my stunned children that followed was delightful. The rest of the meal was eaten in peace.  And during tonight’s dinner, which was served on all white plates, no one felt the need to mention it.

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So, how bad will my kids have it when they become parents?  Will the curse of the plate continue for them?  A part of me really hopes so.

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