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Essay: Nanna’s Dishes

My grandmother had a set of china dishes that were all different colors. Blue dinner plates and yellow salad plates and green cups and pink saucers.

When Nanna bought those dishes, there were probably matching sets in each color. But by the time she had grandchildren, there were gaps in every category.

I knew this because it was my job to dry the dishes and put them away. And because drying dishes was boring, I tried to make it interesting by matching up the colors.

I had forgotten all about Nanna’s dishes until recently when I was standing in my own kitchen feeling lonely. More than lonely, I was feeling all the despair that sometimes creeps in on cold nights when it’s already dark by supper time.

As I washed and put away my one-colored dishes, I remembered my grandmother’s green cups and pink saucers—and felt strangely comforted and calmed, although I could not have explained why.

Nor would I have ever guessed, while drying dishes at Nanna’s—feeling bored and impatient—that years later this ordinary experience would rescue me from some nameless woe. And I was grateful I’d asked my own granddaughters to dry dishes at my house.

There’s no telling when they may need this memory.