My dying friend once chided me, “You need to use paper plates more. Why are you worrying so much about always using real dishes?”
Her niece had visited with us, and I guess the sweet girl told her Aunt that we hadn’t used paper plates. At all.
It was precious that my friend was so concerned. And ironic. Because the only reason we hadn’t been using paper plates is because we had none.
None. Not a one.
It was summer, my favorite paper plate season, so yeah. The fact that I hadn’t been using them had nothing to do with a “standard” or anything–it was actually because I was too lazy to make a special trip to the store. And quite forgetful when I was actually there–so no paper plates made it to the house for a while.
So doing the dishes it was.
I get what her concern was. Now more than ever. Life is too short to worry about fancy plates. Or to be doing dishes all the time. Or not to use the fancy dishes when you want to. For no particular reason at all.
I’m all for being environmentally sound. Our recycling bin is the fullest one in our neighborhood. But, paraphrasing Ecclesiastes, there’s a time and place for paper plates.
Like when you have a houseful of folks and the dishwasher is already being run three times a day.
Paper plates are good in times like that.
Mama got it. In later years, she brought out the fancy “china” (ette) for Thanksgiving dinner. And Christmas Eve supper. And other big get togethers. As her energy waned and her time was occupied with taking care of Daddy, she gave herself grace for the first time in her life to serve us frozen macaroni and cheese. You know, after it was baked in the oven.
My crew still calls it “Maemae’s Mac n’ Cheese,” and they love it better than anything homemade I’ve ever tried to make.
Because of things like frozen macaroni and cheese and paper plates, my Mama was able to enjoy more time with all of us. And us with her. Same thing with my friend. Sadly, she heard the clock ticking and wanted to make the most of the time she had to be with folks.
I was thinking about this earlier this morning when I saw I was down to one paper plate. I thought about all the ones we used over the holidays with folks in and out and enjoying many meals together. And I am thankful for every single one. I’m weaning myself off using them now that all have headed home and my big girl is back at college. Real dishes are the right choice. For now.
Tonight I’m thankful for the invention of paper plates. They are awesome when you have a crowd of folks. Or a headache. Or for making masks or using as paint trays. So versatile and some are quite lovely too. I’m also thankful for my friend and how much she must have cared for me to chew me out about how I needed to use paper plates. It was a bigger lesson and though it took me a while, I’m finally getting it. I give thanks for the example Mama set for me too. It’s important to cook healthy for my family (and she did for oh so many years), but it’s also important sometimes to put the priority on being together and take a shortcut or two to make the most of the time we have.
Wishing you all enough paper plates when you need them and a frozen macaroni and cheese or two in the freezer. For “just in case” and “whenever.”
Love to all.