Eating Off Fine China

by the Rev. Josephine Robertson

At some point in my late 30s I flopped down into a booth in a sushi restaurant across from my best friend, unwound my sopping wet scarf and sighed dramatically “I am so damn busy!” She nodded, made a face and said: “Me too.”

We stared at each other for a while and mused that we kept saying to ourselves “next month will be different” or “it’ll calm down after the holiday” but it never does.

We hadn’t seen each other for months, we were both exhausted, stressed, and snapping at our spouses who were equally exhausted and stressed. By the time our sushi had arrived I had decided that something had to change.

We have a problem in the Western world, an addiction to busyness. One job isn’t enough, we must have a “side hustle,” our kids must be enrolled in all the afterschool activities, all the accelerated classes, our homes must be perfect, our bodies moving, our careers on an upward trajectory, and it seems if we aren’t exhausted all the time we must surely be forgetting to do something.

Enough is enough.

My Grandmother grew up on a farm high in the hills of Missouri before the countryside was electrified. In the winter, when it snowed, there was nowhere to go, and after the animals were fed and watered there was nothing to do. Grandma’s pace was different, slower, more intentional.

As my 40s came hurtling at me I found myself thinking about my Grandmother, and one day, putting our fine china dishes away out of the dishwasher it hit me.

First, you need to know that all we own are fine china dishes, and it is because of my Grandmother. When I was a child my Grandmother’s friends would express shock and horror that I was eating my PB&J off my Grandmother’s wedding china. And my Grandmother would arch an eyebrow and say carefully: if the people I love most aren’t good enough to eat off the “good”’ dishes, who is?

I inherited Grandma’s china when I graduated from college and moved out on my own. I ate off it for years, but eventually my friend’s hounding me to get “practical” china had me off looking at plates and bowls. And I hated everything I put my hands on. It was all clumsy, heavy, chunky, cheap. And I hated the idea of my favorite dishes crammed into the back of the cupboard, of more boxes when we moved.