Years later, gifts still have meaning

Published 2:00 am Saturday, January 31, 2015

When I lifted a platter from the shelf of my mother’s teacart a piece of paper fell on the floor. It had been attached with clear tape to the base of the platter. As I unfolded the paper, my eyes fell on the date, Dec. 17, 1990, in familiar handwriting on the right hand corner of the note. My beloved aunt, my mother’s youngest sister, wrote it. The note explained that the platter was part of a set of dishes two friends had given her as a wedding present on July 8, 1936. “I’ve enjoyed using it and I hope you will, too,” she added, then signed it with her love.

I wiped off a slight coating of dust from the platter, washed it in warm, soapy water, and dried it to a shine. I placed it on my kitchen table under an ornamental fruit bowl my mother had decorated when she worked with ceramics. As I enjoy those two pieces that add a bit of color to my kitchen, I think of the two wonderful women who gave them to me. “I’m using your platter now, Aunt Paddy,” I whisper, and push back thoughts of how many years I had it tucked, forgotten, on a shelf. She had lovingly given a piece of her wedding gift to me for a birthday present. I remember how touched I was when I received it. I know I put it aside to treasure. And because of that, I missed what she asked me to do—enjoy it.

There are so many memories I treasure of that precious aunt. She was living with my parents whie attending high school, when I was born. She and my daddy named me. Since my birthday is so close to Christmas, it is often forgotten by others, but never was by Aunt Paddy. My own special name for her, “Paddy,” occurred in a mispronunciation and stuck when as a baby I attempted to say Pearl, her name.

The platter is only one reminder of some other family keepsakes that are special only to me, like a small crystal pitcher. My mother gave it to my paternal grandfather to store his coffee cream in the refrigerator. Somehow, through the years, whoever washed my grandparents’ dishes must have used a scouring pad on the little pitcher. After Granddaddy’s death, someone returned it to Mother. She brought it to my house when she came to live with my husband and me. There are scouring swipes all over it. No matter—it reminds me of Granddaddy.

Visitors sometimes notice an unusual baby gift I have displayed. Two dear, well-meaning, older unmarried sisters, my parents’ neighbors, presented me with a red Lucite napkin ring in the shape of a bird, with a sharp, pointed bill. When my mother unwrapped the gift, she must have had visions of my poking an eye out with it. She never said how she handled that awkward moment. We always wondered about that very different baby gift.