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Good Company’s Coming!

Mama started me on a silver pattern in my young days. She knew waiting to accrue silver through a wedding register was going the way of the dinosaur, so as soon as I could determine which pattern was for me, we started putting my place settings together. I am a Francis I, girl. As The Southern Belle Primer describes the pattern and the belle who chooses it: “It is showy and opulent and so is she. A Francis I girl is likely to want a husband, children, a place on the board of the Junior League, and a full-time career.” Francis I is over the top in its presentation and on the knife, you can find 28 pieces of fruit. It’s ridiculous is what it is, and my golly how I love it. The pattern comes with all kind of accessory pieces which means I am forever finding something I must have, like ice cream forks. Just like any southern belle on a budget who realizes silver only grows in character as it’s used, I went straight to eBay to find my treasures.

I am certain many a family member who has found themselves having inherited a home full of goods from a relative who has passed opens shop on eBay.  This was the case in my search for cream soup spoons. Yes, that is a thing, I told you it is ridiculous. I found them. I read the description and sure enough they had belonged to the seller’s mother. They were in pristine condition. In fact, they were still in the original plastic, sealed, having never been used. I put them on my “watch list” and continued to shop. I saw this story over and over again. Someone died with their silver still in the plastic. So much beauty, so much potential, so much celebrating—all left untapped. All wrapped in plastic, safe from the corrosion that is tarnish, but at what cost?

There is something incredibly sad about the silver being in its original packaging when death comes to visit. It is an obvious sign there was potential left behind. Too often, we pack our silver away and only bring it out for “good company.” Silver tends to be reserved for those special events of our lives. We do the same with the good china. At best it is on view in a china cabinet, however sometimes it never makes it that far. It is delegated to some shelf usually difficult to get to, requiring digging. We do this waiting for good company. We do this waiting for something special to come along and celebrate. We do this because we feel our best should be reserved for the best of times. And sometimes, we forget the best of times, the best of company is already here. We keep waiting for something better, and we miss out on the everyday greatness around us. Then one day, a relative is selling your silver, which you bought in great anticipation of a grand time, still wrapped in its plastic, having never been used. Plastic wrapped silver, a sign of an opportunity missed, a piece of life not fully utilized, a celebration waiting in vain to happen.

In college I was a member of a group of Campus Baptist Young Women. As the name suggest, it was a small gathering of Mercer ladies who would gather in the home of our club sponsor for a little Bible study and some fellowship. Our sponsor was Gladys. She was a transplanted yankee from Pennsylvania who had been a teacher. She was not a cuddly type. She had come by her belle designation by marrying a southern preacher whose nickname was “Duke.” I imagine her lessons in southern etiquette were not easy. The ladies of the south are serious about their sorority and letting an outsider into their circle demanded a hard initiation. Gladys came through by the grit of pure determination. As a teacher does, she would take these lessons and hand them down to us. Gladys taught me I was to never to pre-pour punch glasses. I should serve them as the guest waited for it, to pre-pour was acceptable only at commercial events. I felt like I had taken a pop on the hand, and I filed this lesson away. She was nothing if not effective in engraining her lessons.

Her greatest lesson to me? Gladys told of the experience when she and Duke took on their first church. The church offered furnished housing to them, and as a young married couple, they were happy to have it. As churches go, there is always a “church lady.” The church lady is charged with making sure all goes well in welcoming the new pastor and his wife. She is usually everywhere and can be depended upon to make sure every mission of the church is carried out. No doubt you know a church lady. Gladys, a fresh, young bride had done a good job of making their home welcoming. When church lady asked Gladys if the home was to their liking or if they needed anything, she had one request. Gladys and Duke had been eating off plastic cutlery. She asked for some stainless-steel flatware. Gladys was met with a puzzled look. Church lady asked Gladys, “Didn’t you receive silver as wedding gifts?” Gladys stated of course she had, but she was saving it for “good company.” Church lady looked at Gladys and changed her life. “Gladys, you married Duke. He is the man you deemed worthy of entrusting your life to. Are you ever going to get better company than your husband?” Gladys reported she and Duke ate off the good silver from that point forward. Gladys died this month at the age of 103. I haven’t seen her in 30 years, but I can promise you there is not one piece of silver still in the plastic.

What if we lived life like we store our silver and good china? What if we delegated our absolute best to the hidden chest or the back shelf when in fact our very best is needed every day. The obvious is to say every day, in some way, is a day worth celebrating. Your grass freshly cut? What a sweet hallelujah. You managed to catch the glass jar of jam before it hit the pavement? A little miracle indeed. Someone honked and waved as they drove by you? What a gift it is to be seen. A stranger offered a smile at Wal-Mart? Blessing a plenty. You get to eat a frozen pizza with your spouse and children for dinner? That’s the good stuff.

Are you bringing your best to the table or are you reserving it for a grand occasion? The world needs you to come out of your plastic and join this crazy big adventure called life. What are you waiting for? Do not sacrifice good at the altar of a hypothetical better. You’ll be safe wrapped away in your plastic, you will likely avoid tarnish, but is it worth it? In the end do you want to be known as the pristinely kept? Or is it time to cannon ball into life with all its glorious, catastrophic, joyful and dreadful moments? You get a choice. And it’s not an easy choice.  Perhaps we simply start with asking ourselves, am I willing to consider where I am keeping myself in plastic? If yes, then you made the first step to busting out of the plastic.

I did find some cream soup spoons on eBay. They belonged to the seller’s mama whose last name started with an “H”. How do I know this? She had taken her spoons out of the plastic and had an “H” engraved on the back. They needed a tiny bit of polishing; they bore a few scratches of what I imagine to be grand times. They are the favorite part of my collection simply because I know they saw their fair share of life. I have a feeling “mama H” was a lady I would love to share a bowl of cream soup and creamer spoons with. I’d bet her life is rich with stories and good company came often. This I know, if we come out of the plastic, good company will come. In fact, it is already here.