Juggling Act: Our dishes are there for life's biggest and smallest moments

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

It seems like -- and it's billed -- as the biggest day of your life: your wedding.

But 18 years after getting hitched, I hate to break it to you, future brides, but here's the truth: It really isn't. Your wedding is an amazing party with loved ones and friends and it's the biggest (and most expensive) party you'll ever throw where you'll one day look back at fashion, hair and partner choices, cringing. But for many, bigger days are on the horizon.

Today, the days my kids were born were the biggest days of my life. And there are the days my dad died and son, because the most profound days aren't always happy ones. And some of the best days ever were actually a string of small moments -- swimming, laughing, taking a walk with my family in the sun -- where I felt truly content. They weren't over-the-top with big, huge Earth-shattering events. They were simple and divine.  

Picking a china or tableware pattern like this one from Pier 1 Imports seems like such a big decision before you get married.

My husband and I got married in Maine, which is where he's from. At the time, it felt like an incredible, huge endeavor -- looking at wedding venues, planning guest lists, picking a photographer. We planned every detail from the bacon-wrapped scallops we'd have for appetizers at the start of our reception to the school bus we'd ride around after the ceremony because we weren't limo people. I can still see my dad's big Irish smile, riding around on that silly, yellow bus.

I was reminded of all our wedding planning a few weeks ago when my husband and I finally decided to throw away the last dinner plate from the tableware we registered for nearly 20 years ago. It had lived its life and was now chipped, cracked and gone. It was time to say goodbye.

Like everything else with wedding planning when you're in your 20s and privileged not to know true adversity just yet, it felt like a really big deal. And it was at the time. 

I scoured for months, looking for exactly the right tableware pattern. We knew we weren't china people -- I'm so clumsy I broke a crystal wedding flute before even two years of marriage when my husband tried to bring me breakfast in bed -- so we wanted dishes that would be sturdy for our day-to-day lives but still nice enough for entertaining. They were my first chance to really express my own style and I wanted something fun and vibrant. 

I looked everywhere -- Bed Bath & Beyond, Macy's and Target. Finally, I found it -- a swirling pattern of burnt orange and green with a red center at Pier 1 Imports. They were festive, fun and made me smile. I went to Pier 1 (when they still had brick and mortar stores) on Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak to see the entire set in person, inspecting the dinner plates, bread plates, bowls and mugs.

Not everyone liked my choice. I'm fairly certain my husband just went along with the pattern I liked (good training for the rest of our marriage, though he has plenty of opinions). My sister, more drawn to neutrals, said they were so busy our food "would get lost on them." I didn't care. I registered for them anyway. They made me happy.

They served us well for more than a decade. We had amazing dinner parties with friends we still have to this day. I served up Alaskan halibut on them several times from fish my husband and I caught ourselves during a trip to Alaska. And they were the same plates we were eating a steak dinner on one weekend night -- the memory seared in my brain -- when I got the call that my father was on his way to a hospital up north after an accident. He was gone by the time I arrived.

But then cracks began to appear about 10 years in -- and chips. Some cracked right in half. Others looked like they might. Some were dropped. That's life in a chaotic house with young kids.

A month ago, putting away the dishes from the dishwasher, my husband showed me the final plate of what was left from all those plates we'd registered for so many years ago. There was only one left. And it was cracked and chipped. We both agreed it was time to let go.

"Let me take a picture!" I insisted, snapping one final photo of what felt like such a big, permanent decision so many years ago.

It really wasn't. And yet, they served us well. And though they were just stuff, they were heaped full of memories too.