After 15 years in the same house, my husband and I are finally getting some much-needed work done. This work includes replacing the broken range hood with a venting microwave. Doing this will free up counter space.
To prepare for this work, I just emptied the cabinets adjacent to the range hood, because I do not want the sawing and hammering to rattle and possibly break our dishes. Emptying the cabinets took much longer than I expected. In addition to the plates, glasses, and bowls we use every day, I found items we have not touched pretty much since we moved in.
For instance, on the top shelf, I discovered the Williams-Sonoma crystal wine glasses that we received from our generous friends and family when we got married. I remember registering for these when we were engaged all those years ago. At the time, it seemed very important to us to have nice stemware, so we added 8 red wine and 8 white wine glasses to our wishlist, as well as 8 liqueur glasses. I imagined us hosting candle-lit dinner parties: an appetizer of smoked salmon or lobster bisque, served with a light chablis or fruity chardonnay; then steak or filet mignon for the main course, accompanied by a robust cabernet sauvignon or a hearty burgundy; and finally with dessert, we would serve Grand Marnier. Everyone would linger over the cordials, laughing in the glinting light of the almost-burned-down candles.
Now those slim-stemmed glasses are coated in grease and dust, having sat untouched on that top shelf since they were placed there, out of reach of our young children, back in 1998. We use sturdier, less expensive wine glasses for the $5 wines we buy at the grocery store. Candlelit dinners are rare, usually only on Sundays during Advent and on Valentine's Day, and formal dinner parties are even rarer, since most of our entertaining takes the form of potlucks. Once in a while, we break out the Mandarin Napoleon (the cheapskate's Grand Marnier) and sip it after dinner as we watch TV. The glamorous life we imagined has given way to the ordinary life we created.
As it turned out, the most useful wedding gifts we received were items we had not even registered for. Since I already had a set of aluminum cookware when we got engaged, we by-passed pots and pans when creating our registry, instead selecting items to dress up the table. But a few people sent us things they knew to be useful. For instance, my cousin Betsy sent an oval flame-colored non-stick Le Creuset pan that we used constantly for 10 years until the non-stick coating wore off. And my colleague Denise gave us my favorite kitchen item of all, a 10-inch straight-sided all-clad stainless steel pan from Williams-Sonoma. I use it almost every day and no matter how burned on a dish might get, it comes clean with very little effort and looks almost like new after all these years.
But isn't that the way marriage is? The romantic dreams you have when you start out give way to the practical realities of daily life. What you value turns out to be durability. Items that clean up well and last prove their worth again and again. There is nothing wrong with our delicate crystal stemware, but it turned out we did not need it to have a successful marriage.
Though now that the kids are away at school, maybe I'll clean up those fancy wine glasses and splurge on a $15 bottle of wine...