Yesterday I sorted through a tall rack of little china saucers at a consignment boutique looking for additions to the assortment of plates displayed on my kitchen wall. I made a shortlist pile of my favorites, then took the pile to the counter and spread them out to make my final selections. This plate clearly wasn't the cream of the crop.
It’s pretty, yes. But others were prettier, brighter, their designs more finely painted. This one’s pink roses are a little cliche. The fern tendrils are wispy and blurry. It's old and faded, but even in its heydey, these flowers were drawn by a less experienced hand, a less keen artistic eye. She is chipped. And cracked. Perhaps over long weeks on this shelf, she’s gone beyond dusty to grimy. There’s a fine web of cracks all across her face and back.
But still, there was something about this plate, and at the last second, I handed her to the shopkeeper to ring up.
This plate looks to me like someone I would like to be friends with. Along her edges is a subtle scalloping, a pretty detail you see only on closer inspection. She is edged in gold. She looks like she has served well. Many a cup balanced upon many a hand. Many cookie crumbs captured. Her beauty has faded. But it has faded through use, and that's a beauty of its own.
The insignia on the back says Taylor Smith and Taylor. With a bit of research, I discover that this pattern is called Bridal Flower. From the 1940s, it “features a delicate spray of ferns, roses and little Forget-Me-Nots.” I imagine her as part of some young woman’s trousseau. A treasured possession brought out to brighten dreary days or mark special ones. As that bride grew old, this plate became cracked and chipped. She became separated from the rest of her set. And finally, she ended up all alone, in a stack of brighter, shinier plates.
There are parts of me that want to be like those other plates in the shop. Bright, fancy, noticeable. But there are other parts of me that aspire to be like this little saucer of bridal flowers. Perhaps not the most fine or precious. But serviceable. Enduring. And upon closer inspection, bearing its own elegance and the beauty of a life well lived.