Let me tell you a story about a platter…
First, the history of said platter; it was used on the wedding table of my mother’s great, great, great grandmother on March 10, 1831. I guess that would make her my great, great, great, great grandmother? Man, that’s a lot of greats! It has been handed down from generation to generation, to the oldest girl. Give you one guess who’s the oldest girl in my generation. *raises hand*
Cool, right? We’ll see…
Growing up, my mother either had it hanging on the wall or in a plate stand on some shelf. Seriously. An almost two-hundred-year-old, irreplaceable platter OUT IN THE OPEN! IN A HOUSE WITH SIX KIDS!
We were repeatedly warned not to play around the platter, don’t touch the platter, don’t look at the platter, don’t even breathe on the platter. Now imagine me, knowing all that time I was going to end up with that blasted platter. Oh, the pressure.
As a small child, I would stand in the dark and stare up at that thing under its special spotlight, and wonder, “What the heck am I going to do with it?” No way would I actually use it! The thought of putting food on it practically made me break out in hives.
Fast forward many years later. I was forty-one year’s old, and visiting my mother shortly before she passed away.
She got up from her chair and said, “I have something for you,” and headed off down the hall.
I followed, knowing with each step what was coming. And let me tell you, during that short walk to her guest room, I’m sure I felt the same sense of dread a death row inmate feels on their way to the gas chamber.
She shuffled into the room and slowly knelt down next to the bed. Next thing I know, she’s dragging out a big box from underneath.
“No. Nope. Nopity-nope-nope,” I said, my hands in front of me as I backed away from it like it was a ticking bomb. “I am not old enough to be trusted with the platter.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” she scoffed with a roll of her eyes, set it on the bed and flipped the lid off. After digging through what had to be a thousand layers of different colors of faded tissue paper, she exposed the ugly, dark blue nemesis that had hovered over my childhood.
Frantic head-shaking ensued. “No, seriously, mom. I am not ready. I haven’t properly trained for this. Just because I can keep my children alive, doesn’t mean I’m qualified to take care of the platter.”
My mother laughed, then turned suddenly serious in that way of hers. “Young lady, you are taking this platter with you when you leave. Understood?”
It was then I realized—she couldn’t wait to get rid of it! She’d been ‘burdened’ by the platter responsibility, too. The damn thing had so much sentimental value behind it, it had become like a multi-generational curse cast upon unwitting females in the family. A figurative emotional anchor around their necks.
“Yes ma’am,” I said. And, as had always been the case, I did exactly what my mother told me to do. For a long moment, I cast my gaze upon the dreaded, not-so-pretty bane of my future existence. My shoulders dropped, and I accepted my fate. I was now the owner of the platter.
I said good bye to my mom, with a promise to return very soon, then headed to the airport.
A little detail worth mentioning; she lived in Washington State and I was visiting from Florida. You know, the state on the far opposite corner of the country? Facing the reality that I would have to schlep this thing on multiple airplanes, I had made a run to the store and bought out their supply of bubble wrap. It was about three times its size by the time I was done wrapping and taping it.
There I was, standing in a massively long security line at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Crammed way too close to a ton of strangers who had no idea the giant mess of bubble wrap in my arms encased a priceless, family heirloom.
When someone got too close, I found myself channeling my mother.
“Please, don’t bump the platter.” I said to the very large gentleman with flailing arm movements.
“Excuse me, ma’am, this platter is very fragile,” I said to the lady whose small child was taking great joy in popping the bubble wrap.
I finally made it to the front of the line and hitched my chin to summon the nice TSA man over.
“Yes, ma’am?” He leaned close so he could hear me over the din of travelers taking off their shoes, unpacking their laptops, and complaining about having to throw away their bottle of water.
Giving up your water? I should have such worries!
Anyway, I explained to him, in probably way too much detail, that what I had in my arms managed to survive at least four generations, and now it was my problem…errr…privilege to possess it.
“Please, please don’t make me be the one who breaks this thing.” Yes, I pleaded with a TSA employee, and I’m okay with that.
To his credit, he only laughed a little. Once he finally convinced me to hand him the platter, he stopped the conveyor belt thingy. And with the gentleness of a man handling nitroglycerin, he reached in and set the platter inside the x-ray machine. After a quick nod of approval from the guy staring at the screen, he gently handed it back to me on the other side.
I’ll admit it, I almost cried with relief. Until I remembered I still had to get on an airplane and fly across country. My trials, it seems, were not yet over.
“Have a nice day, ma’am.” The nice young TSA worker smiled and gave me a jaunty little salute. No doubt, later, during his lunch break, he regaled his co-workers with the story of the crazy woman who was freaked out about an old plate.
I made it to the gate in time to board my flight. And, with the skill of a military tactician, I managed to get to my seat without anyone touching, bumping or otherwise harassing the ancient platter. Once at my assigned window seat, I realized my next problem. Where to put the thing during the six-plus hour flight. Why didn’t I purchase a seat for the platter?
The overhead wasn’t an option; that whole items may shift during flight thing made me want to vomit as my heart nearly beat out of my chest. Under the seat wouldn’t work; not enough room. Unless I sit with my legs contorted in an entirely unnatural position. Seriously, it would’ve involved cartoon physics. The only option remaining…holding it in my lap. And that’s exactly what I did for the entire duration of the flight.
At one point, I lost the feeling in my arms and finally had to loosen my hold on my precious cargo. I couldn’t take the offered free beverage—my hands were busy holding the platter. Probably for the best, since I couldn’t get up to use the bathroom anyway—the platter wouldn’t fit in there with me.
The flight attendant came to me and offered to take the platter for a few minutes. Like it was a cranky toddler I needed a break from. I envisioned her walking up and down the aisle, softly crooning, while lightly bobbing the platter up and down.
Boy, was I tempted to take her up on it. But no, I had the voices of all the women who’d possessed the platter before me whispering in my mind. “It’s yours to deal with now. No one else.”
Miracle of miracles, I made it to Florida, platter intact. My husband picked me up at the airport and, agonizingly familiar with the legacy of the platter, he didn’t even waste his breath offering to take it from me. He already knew what the answer would be.
About an hour later, the blessed platter was placed safely in a drawer in my nightstand (still enshrined in bubble wrap), where it still remains to this day. I’ve taken it out a couple of times to show curious friends who were fascinated by it in the same way you would be those old carnival sideshow attractions.
My girlfriends even had the audacity to say I should display it on a plate stand in my dining room. If I remember correctly, my response was, “Are you f’ing crazy!?”
They laughed and laughed. We’re no longer friends. Just kidding, I love my girlfriends and couldn’t live without them. But no way am I leaving that platter out.
In closing, I would like to apologize in advance to my brand-new granddaughter, Brenley. Without even knowing it yet, she will one day shoulder the responsibility endured by generations of women. Sorry to do that to you kid, but it’s not my fault. Take it up with your great, great, great, however-many-greats grandmother.