My husband was working as a consultant and thought he could take a month off to re-do the burnt-ceiling kitchen. He was outraged by remodelers telling him his idea was impossible, the cabinets would “never fit”, and that his, “math was all wrong.”
“They can tell me anything, but they cannot tell me my math is wrong. Not my math.”
We started the demolition of the galley kitchen. My husband carefully cut each piece of wall and cabinet into a manageable size for my five foot tall self. We had just gotten the smoke-smudged cabinets out when the consulting firm called him back to his job.
The month-long project turned into an almost three month-long project with me doing grunt work during the day and my husband doing the skilled work after consulting. It was fine except for the bee that had gotten in my bonnet: our dishes.
Our neighbor had just re-done her kitchen and to cap it off, she had bought a new set of dishes. Somehow the dishes seemed more important to me than the kitchen proper. As I sanded and painted I dreamt of dishes. Dishes that I hoped would reflect the type of family we were, or I wished we were. I was tired of the dishes that we had gotten at a discount store; dishes that reminded me of the ones my grandmother used to feed her cats on; dishes that had had a streak of red nail polish on them to define their status.
You knew where you stood with Grandmother according to your plate. I wanted to break out of that dynamic.
Then, the doorbell rang. A huge box, big enough to store a fake Christmas tree, was on our front step. It was addressed to my husband. I dragged it into our house. What could the man be ordering, now? I waited until his lunch hour and called him.
“Hey, a huge box arrived for you. What is it?”
His enthusiasm unbridled itself.
“Oh! Open it! Open it! You will see!” I pulled the box open and it was full of bubble wrap and paper wrappings. I unfolded the top paper: I gasped. It was a dinner plate. And another dinner plate. And a saucer. And a bowl.
My husband, thinking that the gasp and silence was from being overwhelmed with emotion continued, “Now, we will never have to worry about not having these dishes! You see! We will be old and we will be able to take out our dishes that we have used all of our married life together and we will have a little bit more joy that day remembering all the good times we have had…”
And my gasp and my silence welled in me, the disbelief at my callousness, my utter lack of romance toward our dishes that happened to look like grandmother’s cat dishes, my realization that with the thirty place settings that, once again, I could not argue with my husband’s math.