They sit in the container they have been stored in, wrapped in newspaper, waiting. I must get rid of them, I think. The container has been stored in my daughter’s basement because I didn’t have room in my small condo. She drags it up the stairs and into my car. I haul it from my car into our new home, knowing that later I will have to haul it into the attic for storage until next year. Or maybe not.
Pfaltzgraff glasses. A matching set of stemware. Winterberry pattern. That may not seem significant, however, when the kids were growing up, I didn’t have the money to buy a matching set of holiday dishes or glasses. Later, when they were young adults, I finally purchased a set of Winterberry pattern dishes, twelve matching dinner plates, dessert plates, cups and saucers. Holly leaves and berries float in a circle on the plate.
My daughter’s mother-in-law Vicky had the same pattern. We shared the same taste in many things – our favorite color (pink), a blown glass tree with hanging ornaments, we both love Lenox and we both had Pfaltzgraff Winterberry pattern dishes. When she learned that we had the same pattern, she began gifting me serving dishes, a teapot and salt and pepper shakers that matched the set. Each Christmas, another addition to my collection.
But my glasses still didn’t match. Until Vicky decided she didn’t use her Pfaltzgraff goblets and wine glasses and gave me her whole set.
My dad and his sisters and brothers were raised with it. Traditionally, The Italian culture goes to midnight mass, comes home to feast, then opens gifts. When I grew up, the elders had tweaked that tradition with dinner and gifts before midnight mass. At my aunt’s house on Christmas Eve, silver tinsel tree glowing, the atmosphere warm and loving, the kids sat at a separate table, first in the kitchen, then an addition to the dining room table as we grew older and had boyfriends and girlfriends.
I continued the tradition with my kids of the Seven Fishes after I moved away from my family in Philadelphia to live in Maryland. At first small, just the five of us, then later it grew into the Christmas Eve tables that filled both the dining room and living room.
The table grew as kids got married and had children of their own. I remarried and my husband Arthur’s children became part of the celebration with their significant others. Everyone had a place at our table. One year, as guests continued to show up, and we ran out of table space, my son said, “Mom, there’s a door we were getting rid of. We’ll put it on horses and cover it with a tablecloth.” And that’s what we did, extending our table to additional guests.
Even after I sold the big house and moved into a condo, we continued with long tables that ate up the whole living area. Matching glasses filled with wine or water and the plates filled with spaghetti with bacala, shrimp, salmon. My kids contributed their own dishes – shrimp and salmon mousse and tilapia bruschetta.
Today, The glasses sit in their container, protected. The tradition our family has had going back generations continues. But it is at my son’s house now. The chargers are in their boxes on the shelf. My dishes get used all year round. And the glasses I bring out only when I have friends over for a party.
Maybe I should get rid of them. They take up so much space. I have to hand wash each one before using them and then again after their used. Why am I keeping them?
And there’s the crux. Why do we keep what no longer serves us? How many of us have cleaned our parent’s homes only to find dishes, serving ware, aprons, bedspreads, coats that haven’t been used in years?
My previous job was helping seniors downsize into apartments. A lifetime of belongings – two sets of Hanukkah pots and dishes when the Matriarch held the celebration. Baking bowls, pans, mixers and measuring cups from a time when the family was large and they were the central home. The elderly brought it with them, not ready to comprehend that this sweet time of life is over. It will no longer be again.
I will not be the primary house anymore. Time has moved on. I may have the occasional family dinner, but the baton has been passed to the kids. They have the big houses, the space, the desire to continue the tradition.
But the glasses sit in the container, ready to be used. I ask my daughter, hopefully, if she wants them. Would she use them? No, she doesn’t entertain that way. She has enough glasses.
When do we finally reach a place where we realize it’s time to move on? We cling to the glasses because we cling to the past. To the tradition that we grew up on and passed on to our kids. We cling to the memories. We cling to our youth. We cling to a time that no long exists. And we keep the glasses because maybe, someday, in the recesses of our minds, we will use them again.
The blessing of tradition is when it lives on, albeit with a new twist, in a new place, but at its core, it’s family, doing together what generations have done before us. It’s not the goblets or the chargers or my home but the heart of the tradition – family gathering on Christmas Eve to celebrate The Feast of the Seven Fishes. That is a blessing indeed.
Angela DiCicco, The Italian Grandmama
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