tonight a poem by one of my favorite poets, ted kooser.
It seemed those rose-pink dishes
she kept for special company
were always cold, brought
down from the shelf in jingling stacks,
the plates like the panes of ice
she broke from the water bucket
winter mornings, the flaring cups
like tulips that opened too early
and got bitten by frost. They chilled
the coffee no matter how quickly
you drank, while a heavy
everyday mug would have kept
a splash hot for the better
part of a conversation. It was hard
to hold up your end of the gossip
with your coffee cold, but it was
a special occasion, just the same,
to sit at her kitchen table
and sip the bitter percolation
of the past week's rumors from cups
it had taken a year to collect
at the grocery, with one piece free
for each five pounds of flour.
i love this poem because it reminds me of my mama. i grew up looking at her depression ware, which she inherited from her grandma. it was so beautiful with its faceted surfaces and its warm rosy color. and i love what it represents--the effort at refinement in spite of difficulty and poverty; the collection of beautiful pieces as part of providing for a family's needs. i remember the surprise i felt when my mom explained that the pieces came sewn into the bags of flour purchased at the local grocer. i couldn't imagine acquiring finery through such means. maybe this is part of why i've always despised fine china. because in my family, the finest china was collected free with bags of flour.
someday i hope i have a piece or two of my great-grandma's depression ware to catch the light and gleam, beautifully reminding me of the simplicity and honesty of my roots.