Friday, December 28, 2012

Sentimental Journey

Try as I might I can't keep myself from looking down at the living room rug in the place where Kodi usually stretched out at the foot of my recliner, for when I do, or even when I think about it, the sobs form in a special place in my cheekbones and I am unable to stop them. It takes ten to fifteen minutes to compose myself, during which time I am unable to answer the phone or do anything productive and there is a heaviness right in the middle of my chest that feels like a big grapefruit. Oh, Kodi, I miss you!

For my first Christmas here Catherine and her house guest Kate came over Christmas Eve and we ate turkey, dressing, mashed and sweet potatoes prepared from the small Oakmont market here.  I took them out of the tightly stuffed 8" x 10" hard foam boxes, reheated the contents in the oven, and served all of it on Lee's Mom's lovely china. Several unpacked boxes from Cathy Lane were inches from our feet.

My guests' admiration of the dishes gave me an excuse to tell the story of how Lee's mother came to get the dishes. Juanetta and Verne were anything but wealthy yet Juanetta yearned for pretty china. She searched and searched, finally finding in Breuner's bargain basement in downtown Oakland a large wooden barrel, slightly opened. She fished through the packing material and spotted this china, gold rimmed with paintings of roses, chrysanthimums and blue bells. She knew it had to be hers. The back side said made in Chekloslovakia. She adored them, as do I.
I have treasured them for about fifteen years now, and on Cathy Lane had them displayed artistically in her large china cabinet (which recently got ruined in the storage locker flood).
My story gave Catherine permission to tell the story of her Mother's Noritake china which she now uses, although mostly grey it is not to her taste.  Eva was a young bride, married to an Air Force officer assigned to Japan at the end of the 2nd World War. Waiting for a troop ship, the wives and children were billeted temporarily at Fort Lawton, in Seattle.  Curiously, I lived at that time only a few miles away, though I was still in high school and Eva was not to become my best friend till about twenty years later.
Eva was excited, scared, and lonely. She was also pregnant, being a good Catholic bride. Her frugal German mother sent her some money so that when she was in Japan she could buy a good set of china. Eva took the money instead and opened a charge account at what was then Frederick & Nelson, in downtown Seattle.  Why Frederick's, as we called it?
They sold a delicious chocolate mint, called Frango's. I vaguely remember them from my childhood. Each week Eva would buy the mints using the new credit card, and soon the china money was all gone.
Returning home to Oakland after his assignment in what was called Occupied Japan, Catherine's grandmother became furious that her daughter brought home no lovely china, all the money having been spent on her daughter's chocolate fix. Eventually Eva got a part-time job at Capwells (now the Emporium) selling hankies until she had sufficient to buy a set of china which was on sale there with the inscription on the back: made in occupied Japan. We hope her mother forgave her.
Frederick's is now Macy's and I am advised they still sell Frango mints, in several flavors, especially popular at Christmas. I love the story.  

No comments: