From A Catholic Woman’s Guide to Relationships, TAN Books, due 2020
Mom was beautiful, smart, highly educated, and deeply devoted to the faith, but she and I bumped heads for decades. Where she was calm and of good Mid-west stock, I was a wild California girl. She was an introvert; I am an extrovert. Where she would have preferred me to listen more, I often arrogantly challenged her head-on. We did love each other, and in later years came to terms, but many times it wasn’t pretty.
In my twenties, as I was trying to find my way in the world, she let me know that she favored my sisters over me. She would invite them all to lunch, but not me. She would give some of her jewelry to them, but none for me. I tried to let it roll off my back, but it hurt.
One chilly Saturday morning in late November, I drove over to my sister Malia’s house for coffee. Her children, Raymond and Lisa, played in the next room while Malia put the coffee percolator on the stove. I went to her cupboard to find cups—and my hurt and anger all came bubbling over.
But I need to back up.
When we were children, every December a huge Christmas package would arrive at our home from Grandma Riley in Kansas City, MO. I recall one year while the younger children were napping, Mom let me help her open the box which this particular year seemed much bigger than ever. Inside we found lots of tagged presents, the usual decorative tin with Grandma’s homemade fruitcake inside, and—surprise!—a full service for twelve of beautiful, delicate bone china hand painted with red and green Christmas holly and gold edging. It was gorgeous!
We’d never used good place settings; with all those kids it had to be unbreakable Melmac. Mom let me set the table for Christmas dinner, and every year after that it became our family tradition that I would be the one to carefully pull out the Christmas china and set an exquisite table.
Now, Grandma’s name was Rosemary, my mother’s name was Rosemary, and my given name is also Rosemary. Since I was the oldest daughter—and Grandma’s namesake—I knew that someday I would get those dishes. I deserved those dishes! I needed those dishes!
But that Saturday morning I saw them in Malia’s cupboard.
“Why are THESE dishes HERE?” I demanded.
I couldn’t believe it. Of all the low-handed, slap-in-the face moves Mom could have done.
“Whoa, what is going on?” Malia asked.
I realized she didn’t know. Malia is our baby sister and was probably never aware of how much I loved Grandma’s china, so I told her the whole story and then tried to calm down. After all, they were just dishes.
“Well, I’m sorry . . . I don’t know why Mom gave them to me, but I was happy she did. To tell you the truth, I always loved those dishes, too, Rose. It’s probably because of how beautiful you made the table look every year when I was little.”
That did make me feel a little better.
The next Saturday my doorbell rang, and I saw Malia outside with her kids and three large, new Macy’s shopping bags. I knew immediately she had bought me my own beautiful set of Christmas china, and my heart swelled with love and gratitude for her.
But I was wrong.
The bags contained Grandma’s delicate dishes—all twelve place settings.
Macy’s china would have been sisterly love; Grandma’s china was sweet, sacrificial, saintly love.
Love extravagantly. The broken world awaits you.
- When has someone been stingy with you?
- When have you been stingy with attention, praise, or love with others?
- When has someone been extra-generous toward you?
From A Catholic Woman’s Guide to Relationships, TAN Books 2020