“Sharon, we’ll be using the sterling…..”…was the instruction I would hear on a Saturday in 1954 as I got ready to set the dining room table for the dinner guests due to arrive on Sunday after church.
Many of the things I grew up with had not been part of the farm home during the young years of my siblings, most of whom were born during or just after The Great Depression.
I really don’t know when my mother acquired the sterling as I was the last of seven whose births were spread over seventeen years but the sterling was there during my childhood and it was beautiful.
It was only as I got into my preteen years that I was trusted to clean it – with that stuff that would destroy if you left it on too long. Heavy responsibility was part of such a task but the reward was obvious – a sparkling table with the pretty water glasses and china dishes and crystal pickle dishes, whether we were setting for six or twelve or fourteen.
When Grant and I married in 1965, my father having died in 1962, Mom chose as her wedding gift to us a twelve-piece sterling-plate set with all the serving pieces. I always appreciated and valued that set and still do but there was something very, very special about my mother’s more intricately patterned sterling which she handed on to me when she was in her seventies.
Now the treasured and beautiful sparkling set was mine to use whenever we had company in our Minnesota home; and then, after moving to Oregon in 2011, it was on our Thanksgiving and Christmas tables for dinners with our son and his family, or when Colorado son and his family visited.
It’s a blessing to be surrounded by things of heritage that speak of the people who loved us early.
One of the first conscious tasks I set myself to last spring after the triple negative breast cancer diagnosis was simply accepting the reality reflected in three words, “I have cancer.” I found that acknowledgement to be a violation of some kind.
It wasn’t so much that it was scary to me – in fact, when the initial response of a dear friend when I shared information was, “Oh, no. What we all fear……” and I thought to myself, “Really? Well. No. I have not been sitting around fearing the possibility of cancer.”
Our family (both sides) is shot through with cancer diagnoses from top to bottom, and has been for well over fifty years. I was accustomed to the presence and reality of cancer all around and did not consider it a fearful thing in personal terms. That’s a general statement and does not mean I experienced no difficult things.
Fairly soon after the diagnosis, I realized that I sort of considered it more of an insult than a truly serious event and knew I needed to straighten up and not play any mental or spiritual games. It was important that I deliberately acknowledge, “I have cancer.”
So I did that standing at my screen door, looking out at my front yard full of early summer splendor on flowers, bushes, and trees.
Didn’t like doing it and it sort of felt like a defeat but I did it and moved on.
At the time I was already knee deep in the “heavy guns” (infusion nurses’ description) chemo.
The next deliberate decision as I gathered Reality up was along about June (over two months into treatment) when a simple thought crossed my mind: life is short – use the sterling.
So I got a step stool out, reached up into the high cupboard where I keep Mom’s sterling silver chest, took it down, removed all of my everyday silverware from the kitchen drawers and replaced it with Mom’s beautiful sterling. Ever since, I have used the sterling. Every day.
Today is really important. Whether you have cancer or a toothache or a flat tire or none of the above, life is really short.
~Today is special~
~Life is short~
~Go ahead and use the sterling~