between our steps 12 04 19 doubleLately I've been breaking things that were my mother's. Not on purpose, but they were in the kitchen. First, there was a lovely tea bowl with Chinese dragons. It wasn't valuable, just pretty.

The reason I break things is that I use them. Last week, it was the small blue and white dish with a Phoenix bird pattern. This dish was given to my mother by a friend who wanted her to start collecting the pattern. Her friend had many pieces of this lovely design. Again, it was not a particularly valuable set of pieces. She speculated that some had been give always in boxes from the grocery store. ( I only remember kids toys in cereal, but in the 50's or 60's, there were adult prizes too I hear.)

We only have one piece because my mother was not an avid antique shop visitor, and flea markets were not her style. I always have my eye out when I wander into shops that might have them, and now I will look harder. It would be nice to have one piece.

As I look around my kitchen, there are more items that I remember from growing up. Some are very delicate and only get used on special occasions. Rare use means that they are less likely to break. But I have to be prepared that anything can happen.

The other delicate thing I have that I remember from every Christmas growing up are six glass balls that came from my father's mother. Their paint is a bit scratched, but they are still quite beautiful and very fragile. They get hung high on the tree, out of the cats reach. They are the first removed and packed away carefully apart from the other decorations. Each year I put them on the tree, I know that I risk having them broken, but somehow, hiding them safely away in a cupboard does not feel right. They are meant to hang on a tree.

Growing up, our first house had one main room, but once there was a separate living room, the living room was out of bounds unless we had adult company. The furniture was light coloured and formal. The room was completely tidy. If we were there, the dog lay in the doorway with her nose just passed the door jam, never allowed any farther.  Kids coming over were sent to the rec room, a comfortable, casual space. I always found the name "living" for a room seldom used a bit odd. But things didn't get mussed up because the room wasn't used.

This didn't change until my parents built a house outside Markdale. The kitchen and den were most used; the downstairs had the wood stove and was cozy in winter. But the living room had the view of the ponds. The furniture was still light coloured. The rug was still the white floral, formal carpet. The desk had a display of family photos. But, now there were magazines on the coffee table. There were coasters on the side tables, a sign that people brought tea in to this space more often. There was a risk that tea would be spilled on the white carpet, wine dripped on the pale couch. But, it was the brightest space to sit, the spot with the view. That room was lived in.

Living is messy. People trip and fall and spill things. It's hard to keep the dog and cat out of the space where everybody else spends their time. Muddy boots can be left by the back door, but, if that entry is at the back of the house and through the garage, some people are going to come in the front door right into the living room, with dust and autumn leaves and snow.

Maybe its my childhood objection to the room I wasn't supposed to enter. Maybe it's a holdover from my teenage rebellion when in one house, I would lounge on the couch in the living room to read. In our house, the living room is where we spend most of the time. And I will keep using the nice things I inherited. Someday, if I keep using and breaking them, they'll be gone. But for now, I'd rather have them part of life.

Cathy Hird lives on the shore of Georgian Bay.




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