We ate dinner last night on the fancy china, and we used the good silver. It wasn’t a special celebration. The menu wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, since meatloaf is rarely noted as fancy food, but somehow, it felt festive. But it was also significant.
You see, I was raised by parents who grew up during the Depression Era, which somehow made them more in tune to the intrinsic value of things. They recycled and reused before it was the environmentally conscientious thing to do. And they saved for what they wanted, rather than buying on credit. Their frugality used to bother me, especially when they used the all-too-familiar motto, “keep it for good.” They believed that you should use or wear the old stuff on a regular basis, with the nicer things reserved for some sacred moment, worthy of the occasion.
I never understood the reasoning behind it, especially when it interfered with my plans. I once had a pair of petal pink patent leather shoes. (My obsession with shoes started when I was quite young, it seems.) Oh, how I longed for them! When my mom finally agreed that I could have them for Easter, I was thrilled. I wore them to church, along with my beribboned bonnet, and when Monday morning rolled around, I slipped them on to wear to school, anxious to show my friends. But Mom was firm in her refusal, handing me my scuffed loafers instead. “Those,” she said, pointing to the objects of my affection, “are to be kept for good.” And ironically, as a growing girl, whose feet expanded exponentially, within six Sundays they were painfully tight and handed down to some other little girl in pristine condition.
It’s funny how we become programmed by those childhood lessons. And instead of rejecting the idea, I embraced it as I grew older. I kept the pricey scented candles on display, but never lit them. Eventually, they simply smelled like wax. I used the stained and faded dishtowels, keeping the nice ones for when company came. They were practically unusable from dry rot when I took them out at dinner parties. I cooked with the old pots, reserving the nice shiny ones for holidays. There are other examples, of course, from sexy underwear to fine wine, but quite frankly, it is far too embarrassing to list them.
I am pleased to say that this all changed for me one day when I bought my granddaughter a fancy little party dress. She was delighted, her eyes sparkling as she ran her fingers across its lacy bodice. So when we got home from the store, and she rushed to put it on to play in, I was aghast. I took a deep breath and then launched into a lecture about how lovely it will be to have that dress to wear for some exciting event and why “keeping it for good” would serve her well. She wanted to please me, but I saw the disappointment on her face, and I remembered how I simply wanted to wear those pink shoes when I was her age. I reconsidered and told her that she should leave it on for the rest of the day. I watched with delight as she happily twirled around the kitchen. Later on, we went out for ice cream. A pretty dress can make any given Tuesday a “for good” moment.