Friday, March 28, 2008

Letting Go

Does anyone know what this dish is for? In my ongoing efforts to clean out closets here at our Little Red House, I came across this unusual tray. It belonged to my mother, and has been taking up space at the back of our dining room closet for I-don't-know-how-long. It is one, solid piece -- everything attached. Could it be for serving crepes? Tacos? Asparagus and hollandaise? I have no idea.

I come from a long line of people who never threw things out. For my father, I guess it was growing up during the Great Depression. My mother was a child of immigrants who had to work and scrape for every little thing. Why would you throw anything away when tomorrow it might be useful? I distinctly remember going to the town dump with my father. He might throw away one thing, but bring home three. I realize now that there was probably a "no scavenging" rule, but he was friendly with the caretaker and besides, it was a different time. People understood the need to make do.

My father built our Little Red House using a foundation that was already existing on the property when he and my mother bought the land. A contractor told us once that some of the floor joists looked unusually big and strong. He thought they might be marine timber. My father was a backhoe operator, and we suspect that he probably found them on a job site. He was always bringing home things he dug up -- a beer stein, some old bottles, an Indian tomahawk head. My mother would go to sales and flea markets and rescue chipped tea cups or little china statues. As a child, I used to open the built-in cupboards next to the fireplace and pull out all my mother's knick-knacks and little pieces of china to play with. Thus a love of dishes was born.

But back to the cleaning out of closets. I've been in a very contemplative mood lately, and it seems to me that I've reached the age where a metaphorical cleaning of the closets is underway. I feel the need to jettison all the things that are not important. Does it really matter if I go to the supermarket in my sweats? No. Do I need to drive a car that reflects my personality? Only if there is one that screams "menopausal woman -- get out of her way!" Should I worry about doing something deep, meaningful and earth-shatteringly important with my life? No, just create. Make something that brings me happiness. Life is short. Beauty is forever.

So I am letting go.
Metaphorically, anyway. I'm keeping the dish. :)


  1. Mary, could it be a toast caddie? Most are silver with slots, but that's the first thing I thought of, and I think you should get an appraiser in there to give you some idea of what you have! I feel like I'm looking at a museum catalogue when I visit this beautiful site! ...and I love reading the history of that beautiful house.

  2. Mmmm.. no idea what it is for but it is beautiful. It certainly is a keeper

  3. Mary you never fail to bring a smile to my face when I have my morning coffee or tea here:>) It is obvious that you got your love of beautiful things from your mother, she really had an eye for dishes! No idea what it is, but for a brief moment I thought you were going to clean out your closets and I was ready to buy a plane ticket and hit your yard sale! LOL!

  4. What a find today! I found your blog! And I would definitely not throw away that beautiful piece of porcelain either. From another 50- something collector, Eleanor at

  5. Remember what I said a certain age the madwoman comes down of the attic and burns the house down! Or in your case cleans out the closets and divests herself of unnecessary items and habits. HA.

    = Suzanne, the Farmer's Wife

  6. I just love reading your post each morning.

    I have no idea what the dish could be, but it sure is a keeper. Love reading about the history inside your home. Janie

  7. I loved the story about your house. Your parents sound very interesting. So cool you have come from a background of savers and cherishers .....

    I was afraid for a moment you were going to get rid of one of your dishes! I thought I was going to have to get in the to New Jersey.....picking up bloggers along the way.....and do an intervention!! LOL. Don't scare me like that!

    ((hugs)) Rosie

  8. wow, I just don't know what that is. Make sure you post if you find out! You have some of the most beautiful dishes. I'm thinking of expanding frm just collecting teacups, but then I'm in a pitch mode too. You think it's the age? I feel like I only want things that I have an extreme connection with. The "stuff" needs to go.

  9. Good Morning Mary,

    I don't know what it is but my first thought was asparagus and hollondaise. At least, that's what I'd use it for! It's beautiful and I loved reading your post. Thanks for starting my day so wonderfully :)


  10. That is really beautiful! My guess would be asparagus and hollandaise sauce. My parent's sound just like yours, they never throw anything away!

  11. What an unusual piece - and it is beautiful. Please let us know if you find out the original intended use.

    You are a bright spot to my mornings.

  12. Mary -
    I'm going through my house and doing the same thing you are. I haven't found anything as special and beautiful as your sweet little unknown piece. But I'm contemplating things the way you are. Time to simplify. No need to hang on to things just because they are there.

    Thank you for sharing about your father and your home.


  13. What a great post Mary.
    I'm not sure what that dish is used for but it sure is pretty.
    Have a good day.

  14. I don't know what the dish is for either. Taking a wild guess and using my imagination...Could it be a finger bowl, the bowl for the water and the other for a small hand towel rolled up? Just a wild wild guess.

    I too thought you were eluding to the fact that you were getting rid of the dish...NO, NO, NO From one dish lover to another, You can't do that. (Isn't that lyrics to a Beatle song?)

    My parents were products of the depression also. When mother passed away, we found enough "hidden" lingerie in her closet that we could have opened a small boutique. Yet, she chose to wear the same old shabby looking gown over and over and over. It took me a long time to realize and understand where she was coming from... And she, unfortunately, passed on some of those "depression" habit to me. I don't wear shabby gowns, but I do collect dishes...lots and lots of dishes..

    Love your blog.. I read it first every day.

  15. Wonderful post Mary. It must be our ages because last summer I got a big dumpster and just started pitching extraneous stuff that had accumulated. It felt so freeing. My parents home of 50 years is just chock full of stuff; they are 90 and still have canned goods destined for the bomb shelter...remember those days? Can you spell Botox?? The ultimate in reuse and recycle, LOL.


  16. Mary, I use my china chopstick holder to rest my paintbrush and I love to use a special teacup to hold the water to dip my brush. It inspires me.

    You said that you wanted to paint again, and this looks like it would be perfect for a watercolor artist. A place to rest your brush and dip your brush in this lovely holder for water. Could you mom be sending you a little message perhaps. What better inspiration than to use something that belonged to your mother.

    Blessings, Karen

  17. Karen,
    that is such a sweet thought -- thank you!

  18. What a beautiful dish~I enjoyed the story of your parents..they sound like such sweet people!


  19. Dear Mary, a beautiful as your wardrobe and find us inside these beautiful things!
    Good afternoon Mary

  20. Mary, that dish is awesome. I've never seen anything like it before. Please do let us know what it is when you find out. Love it. Thanks

  21. Wow, beautiful set! May be asparagus have something to do with it? Or calligraphy? I love your story about house and parents…

  22. Hi Mary, Let me know when you find that car, cause I need one too! You had me laughing out loud.
    Hugs, Laura

  23. Have no idea what that is for, but am guessing asparagus.. don't really care what it is, its absolutely gorgeous! Put it on show and really enjoy it.


  24. Hi Mary, it is nice to be with you in this journey. The dish is beautiful - dunno what it's for - but i can imagine some asparagus or celery sticks on the little 'tray' and the dip right next to it. If you can eat from it, that is.

    Your memories bring back memories of my own :)

    God Bless

  25. Hi Mary, I was hoping to open up your comments and find out what that beautiful dish is for but no one seems to know but I do love the sentiment that Karen left about it. What a special way to use that piece. Karen is such a special blogger and you are too. Imagine my surprise this morning when I opened up my new Mother's Day Romantic Homes magazine and saw your sofa on the "letters to the editors" page. I just stared at it knowing I had seen it before then I read the letter. Golly....blogland is amazing. xo Lynn

  26. Phew! I was worried there for a minute. That dish is unique. I've never seen anything like it. Hope you find out what it is.

    Suzanne's been reading "Jane Eyre" again! Hahahaha...

  27. Hi Mary
    you writes again so beautifully... I begins directly to dream, because also our small red house in Sweden, in was in such a way built, as you describe this. I find also still treasures, which I before never saw in our little house... I like such discoveries very much.
    Take care

  28. They are gorgeous whatever they are!

  29. Hi Mary

    I am thinking a fancy corn on the cob holder??


  30. Mary, I think it is a finger tip bowl and towel holder. If i remember correctly the Victorians used these. Enjoy the clean out,

  31. Hi sweet Mary!
    I don't know what it is used for either, buy I like Karens idea. I also thought you were going to literally clean out your closets and I was trying to figure out a way to head to

    Now, I can't wait for my Romantic Homes copy to come, because Lynn mentioned your couch was in fun!

  32. Hi-- I'm thinking it's for asparagus & hollandaise sauce but...have you tried doing a Google search for any information on the bottom of the piece? You might find a pattern name or the company who made it and perhaps find information that way. Hope that helps. :) Have a nice weekend!

  33. i am so glad you are not cleaning out the good stuff =). It would be cute to serve toast and jam. But I have no idea. Would love to know.

  34. I'm so glad I stumbled upon your thoughtful, heartfelt blog. I would say this little dish is proof to your comment that beauty last forever.

  35. You have really been contemplating a lot lately Mary - it definitely comes with age, just wait until you are old as me, then you you'll be doing it even more!

    Meanwhile dear, enjoy your life one day at a time - that's all we really have. You recognize beauty, plan to have only beautiful things that you love around you - discard the ugly - that's what I'm doing now. I just want to surround myself with loveliness, treasured things that mean something, that speak to me. As for art - do something each day no matter how minute, just something that you have created yourself - it makes one feel so good.

    I used to play at my grandma's flat in England - this was just after WWII and she minded me as my Mum had to work. I had few toys, perhaps a doll and my stuffed monkey Chimpy (why a monkey I've no idea!), but my favorite thing was taking her dainty pieces of china out of a cupboard and rearranging them. I now have several of those pieces in my home - such pleasurable memories, but sometimes I shed a tear over them too.
    Happy cleaning out - my closets are waiting also!

  36. ...hmmmm.... I'm going to go with finger bowl/napkin holder. It's beautiful no matter what it is though :)

    I love the stories about your parents. They sound like they were the most wonderful people and so interesting.

    As far as Shiloh, I think you may be on to something LOL

    Have a great weekend too!
    rue :)

  37. What a sweet post,
    The dish looks like it could be for asparagus or maybe a slice of cantaloupe, hmmm~whatever it may be it's a gorgeous piece.

    Beautiful blog, Mary.
    My Petite Maison

  38. Thank you for your comment:) I try to translate a little bit to english, under the norwegian text, so my english readers get a clue...

    I wish you a lovely weekend:)

  39. MP mama, I agree. I always feel so good visiting this site, and love the way Mary has artfully arranged her beautiful accoutrements for our pleasure.
    Mary, I am envious that you're able to clean out your closets. I've been wanting to get to mine but have this darn knee keeping me from it. It will be better, though! And until then, I have your lovely pictures to soothe my soul.
    I loved this post about your memories of your parents and the beginnings of your house. Really nice.

  40. I am inclined to go along with finger bowl! We must find out......


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