Oh, the dinner party? Oh yes, I really was meaning to talk about that one.
I mean, it went fine. Of course, Corb had way too much in the way of pot roast (and his mother was forced to foot a fifty dollar bill, as a result), and OF COURSE, Aunty Carole was completely overblown and obnoxious. She made a huge show out of presenting us with hand towels that we probably won't be able to use and an ugly "Home Sweet Home" sign that Corb's mother had cross-stitched many years ago. She also pissed Corb off by going on and on about how his grandmother (who suffers from Parkinson's) was better off dead than the way she was living now and she just hoped that the good lord would see fit to put her out of her misery ASAP.
Note to self: never tell anyone that their grandmother deserves to die. It will not be taken well.
But really, as obnoxious as Carole was, the bigger story from that night for me involves the tale of THE SUGAR BOWL.
You probably all have something similar. A china set that's been in your family for years, that perhaps your grandmother collected. A set that's been passed down from person to person as if it's the most valuable treasure in the world.
Mine was from my Nana Mitchell. An Old Willow tea set in red, made by Alfred Meakin. I have an incredibly vivid memory of where she used to keep it. Nana lived in an in-law apartment downstairs from us, and all her good dishes were displayed in a glass china cabinet that was probably the most valuable thing she owned. I remember going downstairs to visit her every night, and having her make me toast and tea. As she'd crochet, the two of us would watch TV, and I well remember the sight of the china cabinet next to the television. When Mom and Dad sold the house, the new owner had only one request: to keep Nana's china cabinet. Mom and Dad let her keep the cabinet, but stored the china away in boxes.
And, handed them to me, two weeks ago, when we had my dinner party for my folks. It was a real thrill, getting the gift of something Nana cherished so much. That Mom entrusted them to me...well, it meant something. Something big.
So at one point during the Corb family party, I ended up talking to Corb's mother. And I was feeling a bit guilty that we had been talking to badly about her for the past week, what with the insistence that we buy TEN FREAKING POUNDS OF POST ROAST and that we invite Corb's "beloved Auntie" over.
So, in a moment of weakness, I foolishly said, "Oh! I just have to show you what my mother gave me last week. It's this beautiful china set that had been my grandmother's." Then I moved over to the cabinet where we stored the china. And then (mistake number two) I picked out what seemed to me to be the most interesting piece: the sugar bowl. Diana's face beamed as I lifted it up to show it off.
"Well, isn't lovely!" she exclaimed. "Do you mind I hold it?"
"Of course not," I said, and handed it to her. (MISTAKE NUMBER THREE MISTAKE NUMBER THREE)
(You can see where this one's going, right?)
"How lovely," she said. "Who made it?"
"Oh...I'm not sure..." I replied.
"They probably have it engraved on the bottom," she said, and turned the sugar bowl over. Including the cover, which had not been taped shut.
And that's all it took. In an instant, the cover of the sugar bowl had disconnected from the rest of the bowl, and plummeted to the wooden floor.
Time literally stood still for me. I watched as, in slow motion, that cap made its way down to the ground, and, gravity being what it is, smashed into fifty tiny little pieces, all across the floor.
"Oh! Corb's mother cried out.
"NOOOOOO!" I shrieked. No, really. I shrieked. I let out a huge womanish howl of despair.
Corb's mother looked mortified. And from what Corb tells me, I looked like I was going to cry.
And then, Aunt Carole tried to take over. "DIana, get over it, you broke a goddamn dish, just deal with it!" she screamed out.
"I can't believe I did that. I am so sorry," said Corb's mother.
"It's...it's..." But I couldn't bring myself to say it was okay. It wasn't.
"Ah, it's just a dish, it'll be fine!" continued Carole, even though neither of us were paying attention to her. "Diana, stop looking like that, just go and get a broom and pick it up and--"
"Please stop that," said Corb, quietly but firmly.
"What's that?" asked Carole, a bit surprised.
"Stop talking. It's not helping!" Carole looked at him, shocked. But amazingly, that shut her up.
Well, at least something good came out of it.
Anyway, I could tell from the look on Diana's face that it was completely a mistake, and that she felt just awful about breaking a precious family heirloom from my grandmother. She did offer to pay for a replacement, too, and wrote Corb a note the day after saying how sorry she felt. (Although, given her insistence that Corb needed to personally invite Carole by phone and apologize for neglecting to have invited his dearest auntie in the first place, I think he would have been well within his rights to insist that she needed to call me and apologize.) And from what I learned from an antique dealer the week after, it may not be that expensive to replace either. A lot of the family china is actually relatively common. At least, the cups and plates. I don't know about sugar bowl covers.
Still, it's the significance of the thing. Mom had entrusted me to be keeper of the family china, and my first week on the job, I blow it. I am not happy about that. Nana, if you're up there in heaven reading this, I promise to do better with the rest of the set! Believe me, Corb's mother will never touch any of your antiques, ever again.
Anyone have any suggestions on how I can find a replacement? All I need is the cap to the sugar bowl. If you have any thoughts, please send me an email or comment. I want Nana's tea set all in one piece...at least, before my mom finds out!