Next days: crystal stemware so delicate my brother once took a bite out of a wineglass as a baby and they spent an hour stuffing him with bread before realizing the piece of glass had fallen in his bib pockets. I don’t like to even handle it, as if my thick fingers will shatter each piece with just a touch. I am a bull in a china shop, the sturdy girl with the dirty face and scarred knees. I am not a stemware kind of person.

But I am also enraptured by the delicacy of my great grandmother Gearhart’s etched dessert dishes, the delicate bubbles of Champaign flutes, It is all so beautiful. How can I let it go? How can I keep it? Where can we all put this stuff?

But it’s hard to count as it is, lined up at the back of these enormous cupboards. So I take out each set, line them up and take photos. Photo. Email. Photo. Email. Who gets what? Answer my fucking emails. If one sibling appears to want too much, I judge them harshly. Why should you get everything? And always, why in hell did they keep all of these things, penned up in the back of the cupboard. Why do I have to do this? This is so irresponsible not giving this away sooner.

In this way, I work my way through eggshell thin tea cups, cut glass candy dishes, candle sticks. Over the next days, I traipse over the house and cover shelves with objects in categories: candlesticks, bookends, useless figurines, pencil holders, fountain pens and ink wells, lamps, steins, mugs (65!) and trays.

Oh! The trays! I remember that my mother loved trays. She had painted metal trays galore, aluminum trays. We had about 5 aluminum trays we used all the time – embossed with acorns and twisted metal handles. But in the cupboard I find similar trays – dozens of them – completely unused.

“Why do you have so many trays?” I ask my Dad.

“Most are probably from our wedding. After the war, no one could afford silver.”

Now I understand a little: if someone in your small town gave you a gift, you can’t give it away. So these are all unused wedding gifts from 1946. 70 years later.

 

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