how my plates taught me a life lesson Food for Thought

How My Plates Taught Me A Life Lesson

Every morning, as I sit in my kitchen sipping my coffee, my dishes remind me that I can be a petulant ass sometimes. The antique dishes – all chipped, cracked, and mismatched – were given to me by my grandparents, and they used to be unwanted guests, but now they are among my most prized possessions. 


I have always been extremely close to my grandparents, both of whom absolute superstars. To give you an example of just how incredibly cool they are, I’ll share a short story: When they were in their 70’s, they took the “Wiede-kids” on a white water rafting trip down the middle fork of the Salmon River. My grandfather broke his wrist on the trip, but fashioned a splint out of, like, a twig and some gauze (in his free time he was one of the founders of the Texas Outward Bound). He managed to stay on the entire trip with a smile on his face. My grandmother went down the entire river –rapids and all – in head to toe Issey Miyake outfits.

This is grandad on another river trip at about age 75.
This is grandad on another river trip at about age 75.


Four years ago, it came time for them to move out of their Dallas home of 70 years and into an apartment in a retirement facility. Around the same time, I had purchased my first home and I was doing the exact opposite – moving from an apartment into a house. So the timing was perfect! They had a lot of stuff to off-load and I needed stuff. But, for some reason, I was quietly resistant to the idea. I wanted my new house to be populated by my taste, my memories, my choices, and things that were machine washable! Don’t get me wrong: I think my grandparents have absolutely impeccable taste – all their furniture is in the style of Japanese minimalism and wabi-sabi design – but some sulky, spoiled part of me wanted to tell my own story in the new house. My mother scolded me into not saying anything, “If you don’t like the stuff when you see it, we can figure out what to do with it.” Over the course of several months, I received about 20 boxes from Nonna and Grandad. They remained unopened in storage for over 2 years while I dealt with real estate legalities and renovations. To be  perfectly honest, I kind of forgot about them.

Nonna looking chic as hell
Nonna looking chic as hell (as usual).


Finally, moving day arrived. My grandparent’s boxes were all piled up in my new fresh-paint smelling hallway. As I unsealed a box, it erupted with the smell of my their old house. Memories immediately came cascading back: These were the plates that I ate my childhood breakfasts off of! This was the mug that was always next to my grandfather’s reading chair, steaming with drip coffee! Here are the gold bowls I used pretend were magic! Tears welled up in my eyes as I unwrapped each item. I felt like a huge idiot for ever even thinking or remotely resisting these gorgeous heirlooms. I proudly piled all the plates, bowls, and cups up on to my new kitchen shelves. They were cracked, lopsided, and didn’t match, but I knew that every single one had been picked out by my grandparents’ hands very deliberately on their many adventures around the world. Their dishes instantly made the new house feel cozy and familiar in a way that some brand new, perfectly matching set could have never have accomplished. In short, my grandparents’ dishes made my house a home.

Nonna and Grandad's collection of antique spoons.
Nonna and Grandad’s collection of antique spoons.


This Thanksgiving (as every Thanksgiving!) I am so grateful for my grandparents who have given me so much and taught me invaluable lessons about how to a life that is full of fun, love, and adventure. Every time I touch one of their plates it reminds of what incredibly unique souls they are – ever embracing the unknown and seeing the beauty in flaws. If that’s a not a good philosophy for life, then I don’t know what is. Happy Thanksgiving!

Grandad reading to me, circa 1986
Grandad reading to me, circa 1986.

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