My Grandma Drake promised me the beautiful India Tree china set she bought in Wheaton, Illinois, before she came to live with us in Portugal in the 1950s.
I was fifteen when she died in Salinas, California in 1970, and accompanied my mother to the little church in Rudd, Iowa, where she would be buried next to Grandpa. The old family farmhouse where she and her six siblings had grown up was just down the road.
After the funeral the dishes moved to my aunt's dining room cabinet, where they remained for many years. This was as it should be, I thought. They belonged with her oldest daughter, and would later come to me.
During the final ten years of my mother's life, when she and her sister began moving items to my generation, I heard talk of my uncle also wanting the dishes, or that they should go to his wife, or even to his daughter, not yet born before Grandma died. I would interject, at family holidays, "but Grandma promised them to me!" This line, evidently not in the family script, would go unanswered.
Several years later the discussions took a turn and these odd statements about inheriting the porcelain became a question: "But who could take the dishes?" My affirmative answer, "of course I will!" was evidently also not in the script, and went unacknowledged.
After my own mother's funeral and less than a week before I left for Portugal in 2018, my aunt was in the hospital with very serious pneumonia. I went to say goodbye, uneasy that this might be the last time I saw her.
She lay quiet in the hospital bed, I thought fast asleep, when suddenly she sat up like Lazarus risen from the dead and said, "If you want those dishes you need to go get them, now!"
Uh...had the script been rewritten?
I went to her home with a friend, who eventually also moved to Portugal, to pack up the beautiful dishes for the shipping container move across the Atlantic.
They arrived serene and unbroken, now gracing the corner of my sala on the glass shelves of a ubiquitous and world-weary IKEA cabinet.
Thank you, Grandma, this is the nicest thing you ever did for me. The India Tree dishes help me forget our rocky childhood communication in Leiria, where I was indeed obstinate against the German proverbs, hiding under the grand piano to escape your admonitions. Thankfully the overarching script of family modulates through time and space into the present stanza and meter, where new holiday memories can now be made.
6 November 2021