Dumb Little Dish

The dumb little dish meant nothing to me. I threw it in the trash.

Fall had come, temperatures dropped, and I thought it best to bring plants back inside after their summer spent on the sunny side porch. The dumb little dish covered in dirt and crusty old plant fertilizer had been under a Christmas cactus to catch the draining water.

It was an ugly dish too. The last remaining piece of an awful looking partial set of hand-me-down dishes given to me years and 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 sickly butterfly. Altogether hideous.

Over the years, various pieces were broken and thrown away. I began to use the last few dishes as trays under my paltry collection of houseplants. Time and accidents had whittled the set down to this one lone worthless dish. It was filthy. I bought shiny new plastic trays to catch draining water from the plants, so the dumb little dish really meant nothing anymore.

It had two big chips on the edge 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 mishap occurred when Greer, only six then, decided it would make a nice boat for Barbie. In a stormy capsizing incident, the boat was chipped a second time. A few chips but so what, I still used the dishes. They were all I had.

In summer we’d sit on the screened porch and Evan would eat sliced hot dogs from those dishes. I’d watch his tiny hands pick up one piece at a time and smile as he popped each into his mouth. Greer would ask for one helping, no now she wanted two, of macaroni and cheese on those dishes and being the fickle little girl she was decided never mind. She wanted pizza.

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 old set was called on for use in mixing those paints. The three of us 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 acorns they found during our walks in the woods together.

The dumb little dish with two chips that meant nothing to me was the last of its set. It had somehow survived Matchbox cars, Barbies and countless meals with my children and me. Many years, and a thousand happy memories later, it was still here.

The dumb little dish meant everything to me. I took it out of the trash.

Stuart M. Perkins

71 Comments

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71 responses to “Dumb Little Dish

  1. My home is full of things like that – alas! Everything has its story.

  2. Funny how seemingly insignificant possessions trigger life’s very best memories. 😍

  3. Tere Priest

    This really touches my heart. I have a couple of the same types of items.

  4. This is why it’s so hard to let things go. Wonderfully written.

  5. awww I love this story and the mental image of that hideous yet ultimately loved dish. Great story, Stu!

  6. A powerful story, Stuart, that tells how powerful old memories can be to save a pitiful little dish from landing in the garbage bin!

  7. I love how sentimental you are in the stories you share.

    After my Mom died, while clearing out her house, I kept a few of the most seemingly mundane things.

    I have this small misshapen handmade “sculpture” I named Jimmy Durante. Both my Mom and son deny making it so its origin is still debated. But it stays in my collection. A poem cut out of the paper by my Mom….it stays. Note pads my Mom made for me on the computer…precious in her efforts.

  8. I really respond to your writing. I read this to my 84 year old husband this morning. We wept together. Beautiful story.

  9. Those pesky little reminders. . . .thank God!

  10. I’ve been trying so hard these past few days to declutter, to give/throw away all those photos, little clothes, mismatched leftover plates….. And now this! 😀

  11. LOL! Yes, isn’t that the way it always is. Sometimes we do not know what we have until it is gone. Thankfully sometimes, some things can come back.

  12. I also have many memories attached to insignificant objects. It is hard to discard those memories and I will leave that for someone else.

  13. As always, this is a piece that moved me. I think we’ve all had those dumb little dishes that mean nothing but are wrapped in the warmth of memory & everything we cherish. I recently cleaned out a closet, getting a box of clothes that I no longer wear together for a local Thrift Store. Before taking the donation to the store I took out & kept a sweater. No longer wearable & out of style, my mom gave me that sweater many years ago. The memories of her gift & the places we went together with me wearing that worn old sweater when it was new held too much to donate it to the Thrift Store, which made it precious.

  14. The significance of the insignificant! To memories!

  15. That touched my heart. I have possessions that stir sentimental memories too.

  16. Oh, gosh, thank God. You had me worried there for a minute…and that’s coming from someone who throws out everything 🙂

  17. I felt sorry for that “dumb little dish,” so I’m glad you took it out of the trash. Let your heirs throw it away.

  18. Love this! I have so many ‘little dishes’ in my house – broken items that many would discard because they no longer ‘serve a purpose’. BUT they DO! They remind me of happy and cherished moments, and fill my heart with an abundance of love, hope and joy. They serve a better purpose than that that they were originally intended for! 🙂

  19. What a lovely story. We all have our chipped dishes. Thank you for sharing 😎

  20. I loved the write up! So true, we have have that one utensil which is now the only remaining piece from the entire set. We discard it, yet in love with it, to keep it

  21. Your words tugged at my heartstrings. Thank you!

  22. DIANE RUXER

    And you explained so eloquently why hoarding is a life skill! Dishes are important artifacts! Love this story, Stuart! I feel like I was right there with you and your family….playing with cars, helping Barbie swim, and have hot dogs and Mac and cheese with everyone! What a sweet, sweet story, and thanks for letting us come along!

  23. jala

    lovely little piece 🙂

  24. Wonderful!! The ending didn’t surprise me a bit.

  25. Oh, how many times have we all done this? (smile)

  26. Stuart, you are just the best storyteller ever! You always manage to illicit so many forgotten, fond memories from my own past with your riveting ‘yarn spinning’! Well done! Love this piece so much!♥️

  27. Loved the story of your dish Stuart: I’ve got one dark blue cup I zap cold coffee in the microwave with. My collection of fine china mugs aren’t used every singly day like that ugly, but beloved, cup. I understand your attachment to the old dish. Cheers.

  28. We get so sentimental over our ‘dumb little dishes’ with their funny and unique memories. Nice story, glad the dish has been resurrected.

  29. Oh, the number of times I have thrown something away only to lament it being gone, for no use at all, but just the sentimentality of it all! Lessons to be learnt?

  30. I have a few mugs that are used over and over for 20 plus years. The china – only a couple of time per year but I love my Christmas dishes and the memories of a beautiful table.

  31. Our memories are what keep us going.

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