I never wanted china when I married; I’m not a fancy gal and it seemed like a waste. But when my mom scored 12 settings of white plates with silver rims at her church rummage sale, I was thrilled- they were just my simple style. We used the tableware for holidays; hauling it out of the cupboard, using it gently, then hand washing everything before returning it home. But I found myself favoring our everyday colorful, mismatched Fiestaware(R), and the china ended up going unused.
I was grateful when my daughter-in-law said she’d take the dishes. A few pieces at a time, I’d box them for their journey to Okinawa. We had a perfect no-breakage record until a serving bowl arrived in pieces. I was getting lazy with my frequent select wrap box routine, but Lindsey blamed the package handlers. In any case, I thought the piece would be unusable.
Until I remembered kintsugi. The idea behind this traditional Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold lacquer is that the break is part of the piece’s life story. It highlights the break in the bowl, rather than hiding it. The crack becomes something to celebrate.
I’m a cancer survivor sporting a scar where my right breast used to be. At first I was worried about being lopsided and imperfect after my mastectomy- I was “small” before and now this? But I’ve come to appreciate the uneven surface and the fine white line that- at its center- reminds me of a snow-capped mountain. It’s my story: I had a breast. Then I had it removed. Simple, once the emotion falls away from it.
Although the kids are preparing to leave their island in a few months, kintsugi supplies are available online so I’m hoping Lindsey will try her hand at the process. My favorite memory of that china is hand washing each piece with my tweenaged stepson one Thanksgiving after my husband got called in to work and his family retreated home. I stored the leftovers and ran the sponge while Richard dried and put away…chatting, listening to the radio, then falling silent.
Besides stirring up memories of that day, that china reminds me of the importance of using special things when we can, and not saving them for that “perfect” occasion. Because over time they’ll wear with age, and maybe even break. But then it’s time to enjoy them in a different way, appreciating their golden rebirth.
Headshot by Fournier & Malloy Photographers.
Blog image by Jo Bregnard.