Privilege Blog

Saturday Morning at 8:40am

There are some good parts of getting old. Surprisingly, it’s not old lady hair, sore hips, or sporadic visits from the Forgetter Fairy. She’s the little critter who waves her wand at crucial moments, leaving you open-mouthed, searching for the memory you could find with ease on that other day. That other day that you can’t remember either.

No, getting older is good because it allows you to understand this troublesome thing called wisdom. A construct surrounded by myths. When I was younger, I imagined wisdom bestowed itself like grace. Like sunlight on a winter afternoon, pale gold, slanting, faded. Broken by leafless trees.

Nope. Wisdom means knowing more than you knew you knew. (That was really clear, huh?)

Wisdom comes from plainly and simply doing the same things over, and over, and over again. In time, patterns emerge. You say, “Oh, I see!” You won’t even know what you know until you know it.

Wisdom doesn’t read itself into your mind like a book. It wanders in and waits.

23 years ago I was pregnant at the first Thanksgiving in the first house I ever owned. The Forgetter Fairy doesn’t even attempt to mess with with my memory of the pregnancy test. In those days a little tube would turn pink. Funny how you can doubt the meaning of pink those early mornings when you hope. But pink was pink. Something wisdom also teaches you but I was not wise then. Only happy.

Come Thanksgiving, two weeks after my debate with pink, I wanted to make sure that dinner would be eaten with things that glittered, and clinked, and settled. I had more than enough plates, glass, silver. Except. My father had handed over one of the sets of family china, lacking a gravy boat. Fancy silver gravy spoon, monogrammed with initials of some generation or other? Yes. Somewhere to put gravy? No. What to do? The china pattern, (Lenox, trivial but just as true) had been discontinued. Fortunately, classic white plates with gold banding reinvent themselves through the decades. I found something similar.

To get the gravy boat by Thanksgiving I had to go to Macy’s shipping facility in San Francisco. I drove up to the Potrero Hill section of the city. Felt like the middle of nowhere. Walked into the customer service entrance. Around the corner from the loading dock. Looked more like an auto body shop than anything to do with gold banded gravy boats. Walked up to the window. Yes, there was a window. Gave the woman my information. When she handed me the box, I just couldn’t keep my secret any longer. “Thank you,” I said. “This is my first Thanksgiving. And I’m so excited – I’m pregnant.”

“Oh honey, congratulations!” The woman was happy for me. She smiled broadly. Added some words on my future, on how children were a blessing. Those I do not remember. Only the feeling of joy, the smile on her face and clearly on mine. Saying this astonishing thing out loud. Dirty white paint on the walls and service window counter. The shape of the gravy bowl. I said my goodbyes and drove back home.

I tried so hard, when I was young, for perfection. I didn’t know that some things are given to you perfect in their native state. And perfect doesn’t mean perfect. Wisdom is lit by sheer accumulation of knowledge, pinpoints of knowledge, fireflies in a New Jersey summer. It’s an understanding of just what in those little stories of your life was truth. What matters. I didn’t need to try so hard.

30 Responses

  1. I smile broadly as I read this, I have just heard that my daughter in law is expecting! First grandchild for us! I feel a kinship with your sharing your great news 23 years ago.
    I wonder why so many china patterns are discontinued. That happened to our flatware, everyday china and our crystal. It was 35 years ago when we were married. Good companies too, Wedgewood, Orrefors, and Rogers Silversmiths. I'll pop over to Souris Mariage and see what wise advice you are parlaying.

  2. This reminds me of how hard I tried to be the perfect hostess some 25 or so years ago. Everything had to be perfect,china, glassware, silver,flowers, and food. And it was.
    I'm still a bit of a perfectionist but I've given up entertaining because it's just too much work on top of having a day job.
    I'm passing the family holiday dinner tradition on to my children…and they can have the silver, china and glassware too.

  3. lordfam – CONGRATULATIONS! Wonderful news. And Belle, with any luck, your children and mine will be entertaining us:).

  4. And yet, somehow, the trying so hard was part of getting to the wisdom. Lovely story, and may I add my Congratulations! resounding congratulations, to yours for Lordfam — you will soooo enjoy your grandchild, I'm sure. . .

  5. Yes, I agree with materfamilias; the trying so hard has to happen. Wisdom is bittersweet that way; we look at our kids and know things that can help. But they can't listen; they're not at the right place.
    Wonderful post.

  6. Beautifully written. :) This time of year is one of reflection and realization. This year I was on auto-drive, yet Thanksgiving Day was happy, even though all was not perfect. It was a true day of "what is" this year. My stnadards are still high, but I am learning to live with what is. Thanks for your message…and hpoing that you enjoy the time waiting for your first grandchild. What a gift!

  7. When you're younger you try so hard to please everyone else. Only with wisdom, we learn that we must first please ourselves. The rest will come with good intentions.

  8. When everyone leads such a busy life, I've come to realize that entertaining can't be perfect. The desserts are usually from the bakery, not home made. And we use stainless because I don't have time to polish the silver anymore. I discovered my guests don't really care. They're just delighted to be out and having fun. You do the best you can and try to make your guests comfortable. I'll throw dinner parties even if it's pizza on paper plates as long as I can!

    Loved your story of being so jubilant about your pregnancy that you had to share it with the lady at the loading dock!

  9. There you go again…making me tear up! What is wrong with me?! I'm ridiculously emotional. On another note…moving away from me being maudlin…have you heard of

  10. Wonderful post. It gave me goosebumps and the warm fuzzies at the same time. You write very well, but you probably know this already.

  11. I am sitting here on my Paris sofa bawling my eyes out now. This is beautiful. Thank you for this.

  12. A lovely reminiscence; I'm heartened by the loading dock lady's empathic joy. Guessing you might not have been moved to tell a man? Women will share the news that they are manifesting their power of bearing an new life, and that news is nearly always received with reverence.

  13. Thank you all very much. In truth it made me cry too. Now, had existed in 1996, I'm guessing I wouldn't have needed to tell the online form:). I do still use the gravy boat though…

  14. Nice story, LPC. I often find myself doing something and thinking…some day I'll understand why this is important. Some things have revealed themselves already. I, too, strive for perfection and fail to realize, often, that it's already there…

    Delia Lloyd

  15. I broke a large platter of my good china and I was able to replace it locally but I have used and they are very reliable and their stocklist is very large.

  16. Now…I'm 26 and I've been wearing BenGay for about a week now. My husband tells the baby "you smell that? That's Mommy!!" Now I did not imagine getting old being like this.But this was a beautiful post and aging is beautiful (when told like this) Now I must call upon Ben.

  17. Another lovely post. :)

    I still strive for perfection, but I've now learned to accept perfection in all its different forms.

  18. A perfectly wise post. Love it. Love these words of yours…"I tried so hard, when I was young, for perfection. I didn't know that some things are given to you perfect in their native state. And perfect doesn't mean perfect. Wisdom is lit by sheer accumulation of knowledge, pinpoints of knowledge, fireflies in a New Jersey summer. It's an understanding of just what in those little stories of your life was truth. What matters. I didn't need to try so hard." Wow!!!! XX

  19. I caught myself trying too hard for this Thanksgiving. It was our first Thanksgiving as a married couple, actually as a family, so it was VERY important to make it special. I cooked a perfect turkey. It looked like it came straight from the magazine, roasted brussel sprouts, chopped and diced other stuff for the stuffing and pulled off a perfect peach pie for dessert.
    We ate off of china ,used old silver place settings that belonged to the SS maternal grandmother (the ss really liked the fancy dishes) and wore our sweats. After their third helping of everything the guys watched football and I took a nap. It was a perfect Thanksgiving.

  20. THis post made me a little teary this morning… I wish I had a switch and I could somehow make wisdom as you describe it be mine. Poof, just like that. Why isn't there a Wisdom Fairy…?

    Thank you for this post. It was lovely to read, dear.

    Much love,

  21. "Wisdom means knowing more than you knew you knew." It made PERFECT sense.

    This post made me smile so much – I remember being that young. You're right; the Forgetting Fairy doesn't touch those memories. And the first pregnancy test I took, 26 years ago, developed some sort of "ring" in the bottom of the tube.

  22. But *of course* one needs to try so hard. How ever else would you learn that it's really not necessary?

    Reading this I wanted to be that woman at the service hatch, you gave her such a gift letting her be happy for you.

  23. Ah little girlikins, it's you doing me the favor by listening. If I've gone through all this and no one is the wiser, what was the point? Peonies is right, in many ways, maybe the only way to get here is the bumpy road. One good thing about trying so hard is that then you know that at least any failures aren't due to a lack of character on your part:).

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