Dumb Little Dish

That dumb little dish meant nothing to me, so I threw it in the trash.

With temperatures dropping, I took plants in from the porch. The dumb little dish covered in dirt and crusty old plant fertilizer had been under a Christmas cactus to catch water.

It was an ugly saucer actually. The last remaining piece of an ugly partial set of hand-me-down dishes given to me twelve years ago when I moved into a new place and had nothing for the kitchen. Each plate, saucer, and cup had a nonsense design of white geese, blue ribbons, and an occasional flower, or maybe the thing was a butterfly. It wasn’t good china…

Over the years, pieces broke and were thrown away. I began to use the last few saucers as trays under my paltry collection of houseplants. Time had whittled the set down to this one lone dish. With new plastic trays to catch water from the plants, the dumb little dish meant nothing to me, so I threw it in the trash.

It had two big chips in it anyway. One chip happened when my son Evan, only four at the time, turned it upside down to use as a ramp for his MatchBox cars. The second chip happened when Greer, only six then, decided it would make a nice boat for her Barbie. In a stormy capsizing incident, the boat was chipped. A few chips but so what, we still used the dishes. They were all I had at the time.

In the summer we’d sit on the screened porch and I’d cut slices of hot dog on those dishes for Evan. I’d watch his little tan hands pick up one piece at a time and smile as he popped each into his mouth. Greer would ask for two helpings of macaroni and cheese on those dishes and being the fickle little girl she was, decide she wanted none after all.

Evan continued to use a dish or two as car ramps, flying saucers, or to hold his crayons as he colored. Greer’s Barbie often used the dishes as wading pools, boats, or stages from which to sing to imaginary audiences. One Christmas Greer and Evan got watercolor paint sets from Santa Claus. Every remaining dish in the decrepit set was called on to be used for mixing paint. We had a grand time!

Those dishes held soups and sandwiches, marbles and doll shoes, eggs and bacon, army men and princess stickers. That ragged old set of dishes was there every evening at the dinner table, every lunch on the porch, and every time one of the kids needed a spaceship or a place to save rocks they’d found.

The dumb little dish that meant nothing and that I’d thrown in the trash was the last remaining piece from those days. It had somehow survived Matchbox cars, Barbies, watercolor paints, and a myriad of dinners and childhood activities. Twelve years, two chips, and a thousand memories later, it was still here.

That dumb little dish meant everything to me, so I took it out of the trash.

Stuart M. Perkins

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129 Comments

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129 responses to “Dumb Little Dish

  1. Sentimentality to inanimate objects exist because they are the stimuli for remembering events from days gone by. We have a cedar chest filled with dumb little things that would be junk to most, but are priceless to us. A broken pair of wire rim glasses grandma used to wear to read, a cheap little pocket knife that grandpa used to clean out under his fingernails, and a clay monstrosity that my son made in pre-school to name a few. I hope I never forget the day he brought it home and said “It’s supposed to be a duck daddy, but teacher said I didn’t do a good job.” While wanting to slap his teacher for being so cruel to a four year old, I held the “duck” that I would have never known to be a duck if he had not told me and said to him “This is the most beautiful duck I’ve ever seen.”

    Sometimes I am drawn to the basement corner where there sits my great grandmother’s cedar chest. As I open the lid, the inanimate objects that are the guardians of my memories come rushing out to greet me again.

    Thanks for the Stimulation Stuart!

  2. That “dumb little dish” made a pretty good posting!

  3. Oh I loved this – you wrote it so I was just begging, by the end, for you to finish it exactly the way you did:-) H xxx

  4. Oh those dumb little dishes – I know what you mean!!! I can’t seem to throw away some things too. Like my little strawberry glass from when I was child that my parents gave me! I think I have had around for forty years!

  5. Rekha

    wow! morning was thinking on the same lines about the gifted cutlery where only one spoon is left now!

  6. How I love this story! I have little items like that I can’t seem to part with either. It’s these little, seemingly worthless things that are actually priceless. Have a great night. Eva

  7. Really glad you remembered what that dumb little dish meant before the trash had been taken away.

  8. I love this blog, as I begin to “declutter” and downsize, I find I have so many “dumb little dishes” and they are more important to me that anything else I own.

  9. That was a sweet picture you drew.
    Consider that the whole thing would make a lovely picture book — the kind marketed for children, but treasured by those reading it to them.

  10. You have a way with expressing your feelings. Envy you.

  11. My mom is turning 90 in July… She’s surrounded by equivalents to your “dumb little dish”…it’s what keeps her connected to her life…to her memories.

    You write with a “Jesus” heart. What I mean is, they’re stories of “opposites”. The small things have…significance…the bigger things, not always so much…

  12. If you hadn’t finished this post the way you did, I would have had to hunt down your residence (Lol) and rescue that little dish myself. It is crazy, isn’t it? The amount of memories that we can store in the smallest, apparently most useless piece of bric-brac, and the way those little items suddenly take on a significance equivalent to the crown jewels. I guess we all have our own little pieces, and that’s exactly how it should be. And most of all, I loved the way you told the story. Kudos. I’ll read you later.

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