I moved into my own apartment a couple years after my divorce. It was a liberating move on my part, one I could barely afford. But I was determined to do so nonetheless. I had never had my own place before. The day after I graduated high school, I moved in with my future ex-husband. I was sure that living at my parents’ house another day would surely kill me, convinced that I had it so bad. I was sure that living on my own would free me from their domineering clutches and would allow me to finally be my own person.
Little did I know just how opposite from the truth that was.
For the next 2 years we lived in absolute poverty. When I had my daughter, my then husband and I changed the way we were living so that we were working as a team rather than against each other. It worked for a short time. But when two people aren’t right for each other, time has a funny way of disintegrating even the best intentions. Just before we were about to self destruct and bring our two children down with us, we finally parted ways and went through the rocky road of reassembling the pieces of our lives that lay shattered all around us. For me, that meant moving in with my parents and lying in a depressed heap on their couch for a year, letting them take over as mom and dad while I wallowed in my incomplete shell of self. Then it took building myself up for another year and a half, building up the realization that yes, I could make it on my own and take care of my kids as a single mother.
The move to my own place was a risky one. I was only working minimal hours at a job I loved too much to leave in pursuance for one that offered more hours and pay. But the pay I was receiving each week, by my calculations, would only allow me the barest of necessities. But with strategic planning, I figured that there were plenty of luxuries I could live without to be able to afford a home of our own. It was a fresh start, the move I needed to make to transform from a dependant child to a self-sufficient adult. And so we did it, eyes wide open, and we refused to look back.
I couldn’t have done it without help, however. We moved into our apartment with only the clothes on our backs. I had bought a kitchen table with some money I had saved, and besides our beds, that was the only furniture we owned. The living room stayed bare, besides the few boxes we still needed to unpack. There was no couch, no TV, just a table to eat our humble dinners. Some dear friends surprised me soon after moving in by furnishing my apartment with gently used items such as a couch set, a TV, a washer and dryer, a bookcase, a coffee table, and pictures and shelves for my wall. There were even lights adorning the railing outside to reveal a patio bench and table to sit and enjoy in the quiet evenings after the kids went to bed. For $2, I found a dish set of plates and bowls so we could eat dinners like a normal family. My empty apartment suddenly had the feeling of home wrapped inside and out.
Early on in my adventure as a single mom doing it on her own, I came across some plates at Cost Plus that I fell in love with. They were a deep blue with cherry blossoms splayed across them. They were fancier than the sky blue plates I owned with daisies decorating the center. I didn’t begrudge the plates I already had. But to me, these cherry blossom plates symbolized the life that I hoped to achieve. They were the plates of a woman who had succeeded in life, who had jumped the hurdles that everyone else said she couldn’t overcome. There was even a set of silverware there that would match them perfectly, a shiny metal with handles cut like bamboo. They were much nicer than the faded and scratched up metal set I had received from the hand-me-downs of my parents. These dishes and silverware were placed on my mental list of “someday”. Someday I’ll have a larger place to live. Someday I’ll write that book that has been playing on repeat in my mind for years. Someday I’ll travel the world and see sights I’ve only seen on TV. Someday I’ll find that one man who loves me and my children for who we are and who is everything I’ve hoped for all my life. Someday I’ll have enough money to not have to budget everything to a fault. Someday I’ll buy my own dishes at cost, the ones that I choose for myself and not because they are at an affordable price on a table of castaways from someone else’s garage.
The thing about “someday” is that, if not put into action, it becomes never. Every time I walked into Cost Plus, those plates called to me. I would pick them up, run my hand over the smooth enamel, imagining them on my table, and then place them back on the shelf. I’d have some money in my pocket, but I just couldn’t believe that it was time to buy them yet. Someday was not today. I told myself to be patient, but my patience was starting to tell me that maybe it was better just to say “never”. My plates at home were good enough. They held food. Only a couple had chips. They all matched. Why did I want plates like these when what they really weren’t a necessity, when we had costs such as daycare, groceries, braces, and rent – all bills that were way more important than making our table prettier for meals? I went into Cost Plus less and less, and stopped looking at those plates as something that might be mine – someday. Where I was at was good. If I never got any farther, I would still be just fine. I had already overcome so much, I should just be proud of where I was rather than looking at where I want to be.
Christmas came this year in a flurry of blessings wrapped with little red bows. Even after telling my family and Mr. Wonderful that we don’t need much, there were dozens of presents to open with gifts that we could definitely use. A new pair of tongs for my kitchen. A set of bath towels to replace the threadbare ones I’d been using for years. A new pair of running shoes so I could finally throw out the ones I’d been running in for 10 years now. And when all was said and done, Mr. Wonderful placed a large, heavy box in front of me. I jokingly guessed what it was, holding it up and judging by the weight.
“A breadbox!” I exclaimed without a clue as to what lay beneath the cardboard and beautiful wrapping. I finally pulled the wrapping away from the box, and opened the lid. Whatever was in there was hidden beneath white tissue paper. I pulled it away and saw more tissue wrapped around what was apparently a plate.
He had bought me the dishes.
I unwrapped one of the 6 plates that were in the box, running my hand over the smooth enamel as I had so many times in the store. It was mine.
“I couldn’t get you the whole set,” he apologized. “But I also know that you have wanted to get these for yourself. I figured I’d offer you a start.”
I threw my arms around his neck, tears in my eyes, thanking him for a gift that was so much more than dishes. What he had given me in between those dark blue plates with cherry blossoms splayed across them was my “someday”. Someday was today. Today I had my new plates. And for the past year I have had the love of a man who cares for me and the kids for everything we already are. Tomorrow it could be my book, the home, traveling the world….. Anything was possible. And someday didn’t need to be some far off fantasy place where I wanted to be but knew I’d never even visit.
Once home, I went through my cabinet and pulled out the old dinner plates. I placed them in the back of a cupboard I rarely used, promising that someday the rest of the plates would be there to join them so that someday my own children could benefit from my hand-me-downs. I left on vacation right after Christmas, and then came home to the plates that were gracing my cabinets. In my pocket was some leftover Christmas money that I had decided to spend on boring things like bills and groceries. But still, I knew that there was a little extra money in that amount.
Someday is today.
I went to Cost Plus and picked out 6 matching dessert plates. And then I pulled 4 sets of the coveted silverware from the bins. Surprisingly, it was a lot less than I expected to piece together the beginnings of my set. I didn’t need the whole lot at once – there was time enough for that. My kids laughed at me as I urged them each to go open the silverware drawer and check out their reflection in the knives, and to open the cabinets and look at the neatly stacked plates of dark blue.
On a final note, it is amazing what one new coveted item can do to your home. Seeing the richness that exists in my cabinets, the urge to simplify my home and create it how I want has manifested. Little by little I have been pulling apart my closets and placing unused items in bags meant for donation. I am eyeing the gently used items and thinking of ways I could replace them, giving the older items to others who are starting out for their first time on their own adventure. That new home I am dreaming about might even exist in this old faithful one. I just need to unbury it first and then make it my own.
A dream begins with a single step….
It brings me great joy to see how much a simple gift can mean when given unconditionally!
Your SO remembered these plates and what they symbolized for you. It’s not about the plates, but the fact that he was paying attention when you spoke about your dreams and wanted to help you start your ‘someday’. Money can’t buy a gift like that.
This brought me to tears.