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Blue Plate Special


I’m told every family has one:
1. It’s an heirloom.
2. It’s handed down to a member of the family that must meet very specific criteria (i.e., first-born male, only female with freckles, etc.).
3. The rules of its use are long and complicated.
4. It’s the most god-awful, butt-ugly antique piece ever to show up on E-Bay.
Yesterday I unpacked it.
The Big Blue Plate.
“And where do you want to put this?” my friend April asked woodenly.
Let me make this very clear: April never asks anyone anything woodenly. April is the poster girl for optimism. I say this very deliberately because you must understand that April is never, ever anything approaching negative.
But April had never encountered the Big Blue Plate.
The Big Blue Plate is very, very big. Technically, it isn’t blue. It has a blue design on it. A blue Chinese design, accented with red, yellow and green. When I say “Chinese,” I mean pictures of figures with tiny lines for eyes, all of the people grouped together in what looks like vignettes from The Mikado. Which is probably why it is in no way a product of actual Chinese people.
I know there are the antique people among you that will ask about markings and stampings and all that. And they are there, only I’m not going to tell you about them because it’s still a god-awful, butt-ugly Big Blue Plate that I can’t even think about selling (See #3).
Another rule of ownership is that you can’t actually use the Big Blue Plate either, even if it is the only plate in the universe that could actually hold an entire 24-lb. carved turkey. No, you must make do with several smaller plates while you sit around the Thanksgiving table admiring the fact that you don’t have to go home to a house that has the god-awful, butt-ugly Big Blue Plate on display.
My mother once used the Big Blue Plate. Oh, yes she did. It was the talk of her funeral, about how she had brazenly placed some roasted meat or other on the plate, thinking that, just because she had cancer, she was somehow exempt from the rules. Well now, Aunt Angelina inferred, that’s what comes from using The Big Blue Plate.
And what makes me, specifically, the lucky recipient of said plate?
According to the rules, laid down by no one knows who, no one knows when, the last female of a generation to get married (or not) is the – er – winner. Seeing as I am the only female in my generation in my family, I inherited the plate in a touching ceremony wherein my Aunt Margaret handed me the plate and said, “Get this thing the hell out of my apartment.”
In my early wedded state I actually caved in to the obligation to have the Big Blue Plate on display in a prominent place in my dining room. Dirtman tolerated this only because I put up with several familial eyesores he’d inherited, not to mention the Virginia Tech detritus that still seeps out from the crevices now and again and has to be eradicated immediately lest it breed more of the same.
I had blissfully forgotten about the Big Blue Plate since we had started packing for this move two years ago. All this time I’d been envisioning my colorful red, yellow and green dining room without a hint of blue in it.
And now it popped out of the box like a foul relative and then there was April – trying so darn hard not to scream in horror. It was a tableau to make Rod Serling proud.
Ah! There is one thing I had done when planning this house, with the Big Blue Plate subliminally in mind. I placed a kitchenette in the basement to serve the family room and to provide any guests with some morning privacy should they want it.
“Stick it in the basement,” I said breezily, to April’s relief.
I just won’t tell Dirtman where it is. I’m pretty sure The Big Blue Plate showing up on E-Bay is against the rules and I’m certain that Aunt Angelina is checking.

Share  Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 10:21 AM | Permalink

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