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Grandma’s China

Three times this week, under different circumstances, friends have expressed roughly the same worry to me.

“I am afraid I’m going to screw this up.”

And I think they wanted some kind of “It’s okay, you’ll be fine” sort of comment… which proves that they don’t know me very well. Now, granted, one person made the statement on his blog, which means he was innocently casting his worries to the world. He got the same answer as everyone else though.

“You are going to screw up. If you’re really successful at screwing up, you might fail so spectacularly that the fireball of your error can be seen from space.” Not a pleasant thought perhaps, but I don’t do pleasant. I do honest, and I do that well, probably to a fault. I do always give my honest view on something, even if it’s not one you like. I try hard to stay on this side of honest without skirting into the realm of being a dick. There is a huge difference between giving your honest view and being an asshole for the purpose of hurting people. I never want to go into the dickhead area, but I don’t want to lie either. So I try to stay out of the asshole zone. I don’t always make it, but damnit I try. And that’s where the other half of my reply comes in every time.

“But hey, once you’ve had that moment, and the team of researchers is dispatched to the crater, and they find you sitting in it saying that you know what you did wrong, it will never be that bad again. Once you’ve crashed, you’ll know how to avoid it. Once you’ve hit bottom, all you need to do after that is kick, and thrash and head for the surface. After that, it can never hurt you again.”

My grandmother gave us her old china about… let’s say seven years ago. We were still in the condo, so it’s has to be at least five. Seven sounds like a good number. Syd and Holly were both utterly terrified of the plates. I wanted to use them as everyday china, and they both wanted to not have to wash, move, or touch them for fear of breaking one of the plates. They both mentioned at one time or another, their fear of breaking one of the plates and never being forgiven.

Now, grandma’s china was about 900 place setting. Not pieces, SETTINGS! Each setting had a bread plate, a salad plate, a main plate, a secondary plate, a plate that wasn’t quite in the relationship but was totally a FWB, a soup bowl, a finger bowl, a saucer, a tea/coffee cup, a desert bowl, what looked to me like a coaster but was probably a ramekin, a desert plate if you were having something that didn’t go in a bowl, a second main plate in case the first plate got scurvy at the last moment, another bread plate because why not at that point, a Sig Saur automatic pistol with 300 rounds of ammunition because we didn’t fuck around during thanksgiving arguments, another damn bread plate, the holy grail, seven tiny elves to help move the plates, a full set of the 1963 Encyclopedia Britannica and an ash tray because this was before people stopped smoking. EVERY SETTING HAD THESE THINGS! I only exaggerated once in that list, there were only two bread plates.

And these lunatics I lived with were afraid of breaking one damn plate. At one point I dragged them both into the kitchen and asked if they would feel more comfortable if I just broke one. Then it would have happened and they wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore. They always declined, but kept worrying. I kept getting just to the edge of tossing one into the air, just to watch it tumble through empty space and smash on the ground. The only thing that stopped me was the thought that I would have to clean the damn thing up.

I believe on the plates did finally break, they must have, but I can’t recall the situation that brought it about. So maybe one didn’t. What I remember very firmly though, was wanting to break one of the damn things, just to show that they could be broken and I wouldn’t be upset. If anything, what was upsetting me was everyone treating the damn things like some damn religious icon from ten thousand years ago. I loved my grandmother, even if she did go a bit mean and weird at the end, but they were just plates and we had more of them than I could fully comprehend wanting to use. Frankly, breaking one or two would have relieved the burden of them.

In the end, it didn’t matter. In the end Holly left, and Syd and I bought new plates to commemorate the event. There are probably other steps between that, I got a pair of swords somewhere along the line. So what the hell right? Yeah, there was a lot of yelling, crying, demands to stop crying, and at some point Fancy ran to the roof and mounted a flag with six circles a triangle and the kanji for village, but then there were swords. The Swords are sort of important. A) Because they’re awesome, and B) Because of what they represent. One day I’ll feel comfortable buying a tanto for the set, and then you’ll know I feel okay again.

The point… if indeed I have one, is that you are going to screw up. You’re going to break grandma’s china, you’re going to fail at cooking Thanksgiving dinner, you are going to screw your kids up, you’re girlfriend is going to dump you for messing around with that chick, and the universe will eventually reach heat death despite all your best planning. You can’t stop this, you can’t prevent it, you can only embrace it. I have very little store in the way of pride, I don’t mind reaching for the bottom just so I can say I know where it is.

But, my dears, my darlings, with very few exceptions, you are permitted a second chance. You can go back and cook another turkey, get a new girlfriend, glue the china, have another kid… whatev. Very few things, in relative terms, are either irreversible or so permanent that you don’t get a second chance. You are almost always given the chance to improve.

I’m fully aware that this is not the reassuring statement that some people would like to have given to them, but I told you that I don’t do that. What I do is give advice like “Kick, thrash, swim, fight.” and sometimes “Hold, fold, walk, run.” if I happen to be on a train to nowhere.

But when was the last time I was on a train to nowhere?

Saturday. It was Saturday.

March 20, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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