Moving on looks like many different things. Last week for me, it looked like soup bowls.
I’m not one to buy a lot of new kitchenware. It’s expensive, and I don’t even currently own a dining table of any kind. The chances of me setting up a spread with formal china are about as likely as my chances to make the short list for World Cup — it ain’t happening.
The plates I use every day are the same ones Tim and I registered for for our wedding. We went to Crate & Barrel, an experience he wasn’t excited about but quickly warmed up to once I handed him a lazer gun and pointed him towards the coffee section. While he bleep bleeped odd kitchen gadgets and more french presses than one person should own (coincidentally, I also have more grapefruit spoons than one person should own…and I don’t even like grapefruit), I walked past the china gleaming in organized sets under museum lighting.
Nothing too traditional. Nothing too fancy. We refused to register for “every day” and “formal”, since we figured every day was formal in our house. We settled on a pretentious named pattern — Celadon Edokomon. They’re light with tiny mint green dots evenly displaced, a pattern we both easily agreed on because Tim was thankful I didn’t want something with horses galloping across it and I thought the light color seemed modern enough to please him. When Crate & Barrel boxes arrived to our house ramping up to the wedding, we opened the boxes and carefully pulled out the plates.
“These are nice,” Tim said as he held a teacup up to the light in our kitchen. He nodded to the china as if to validate our decision, and I smiled as I pulled his old black, Target plates out to take to Goodwill. New plates for a new married life in our new town of Austin. Everything as neat and tidy as I wanted.
The china, though beautiful, didn’t age well. The bottom of it was prone to picking up rust stains in the dishwasher, though we could never exactly figure out why. It also didn’t fare well with Tim’s handling. Dishes were his job, and though he was good at getting everything spotless he didn’t exactly have the lightest touch. He loved to BANG the dishes and SMASH them down and TOSS them into the cabinet when they were dry. More than once I’d be sitting in the living room watching TV while he cleaned up after I cooked dinner, and I’d hear a smash over the sound of the television before a delayed, “Oops.”
When I packed up my kitchen to move to California, my wedding china was looking rough. Each stack of matching plates varies in height due to losing (multiple) comrades over the years. Half of the ones that are left are chipped. They’re deeply flawed, but I love the little mint dots and I keep using what I have.
I’ve struggled with the term “moving on” ever since I lost Tim. Someone would hint at it or say it outright, and it took everything in me not to snap back, There is no such thing as moving on! You move forward with the loss. You never escape it.
Because that’s true, a loss this deep never leaves you. Moving on insinuates that you’re leaving something behind. I refused to leave Tim, so I forcibly drug the memory and the guilt and the pain with me wherever I went. It took me a long time to understand that “Moving on” isn’t forgetting, but it’s a synonym for looking ahead instead of behind.
Sometimes you’re forced to look ahead. Moving to California was that push for me. When my mom and I packed up my battered wedding china in my Austin kitchen, I took a long look at the delicate tea cups & saucers adorned with the tiny, mint dots. Tim picked those out. He loved hot tea, and kept a cupboard full of exotic varieties that he would brew several times a day. Since he died, I had packed up and moved the eight set (the only setting he never broke one of) wedding china teacups twice without using them. They took up a ton of room in the cabinets — room that I knew I wouldn’t have in my 400sq/ft California kitchen.
“I need to donate those,” I said to my mom as we stared up at the china.
“Someone will really appreciate them,” she said.
Unlike everything else I donated to Goodwill that month, we carefully wrapped the teacups and saucers up with tissue paper to donate. I handed them to the attendant layered in a rubbermaid container.
“These are fragile,” I said as I passed him the china.
“Thank you ma’am,” he smiled at me and walked into the building to place them down. And two steps later, he tripped. Total accident. I watched the container drop with a smash, and saw a mint green handle roll onto the pavement, free from its cup. Moving on can hurt, when it’s forced.
But last week, I strolled through HomeGoods on my own with a $100 bill my grandmother gave me for Christmas in my pocket. I wanted to pick up a few things to make my place feel extra lush after being gone for a month. A copper wire sponge holder to organize my sink. A blue gemstone bookend. Extra pillows for my bed (if you haven’t slept with 6 pillows, you aren’t living).
In the kitchen section on clearance, I saw a stack of bowls on sale. A matching set of six. Unlike my fleeting collection at home, they weren’t chipped. I held one in my hand, turned it up to the overhead light of the store, and smiled.
Moving on, or looking forward, can look a lot like soup bowls. White ones, thicker than fancy china. Square instead of round, with little cross hatches on the sides for texture. They were on sale for $2.50 each. They look nice sitting in my cabinet, and they complement that mint green dotted china pretty well. I put my old bowls in a bag to donate, and it didn’t hurt. Not even a little.