March O.Henry 2014

Page 47

Life of Jane

Tureen Trouble One was a problem. But three is perfect

By Jane Borden

After receiving duplicates of a few items on my wedding registry, I found myself in an enviable position: with store credit at Carolyn Todd’s, one of Greensboro’s finest purveyors of fancy-pretty things. Family, friends and family friends all advised me to put the entirety of the credit toward a tureen, an item which sounds like part of a military convoy, but rather is a large serving dish. Like a canteen, a tureen holds liquid — they’re designed for soups and stews — but unlike a canteen, there is no situation requiring one for survival.

This last point may be unknown to my chorus of advisors, however, who chanted, “You must have a tureen.” You mean, like a smoke detector or health insurance? “Everyone needs a tureen.” I see. Like a liver? “You just shouldn’t be without one.” Ahh, so more like a kidney. I zeroed in on the definition of the word “need” because I was then, as I am now, poor, which you already know because the word “author” appears in my byline. Since Carolyn Todd’s doesn’t sell beans and rice, Wi-Fi, or car loan payments, my grand idea was to appropriate the credit toward a collection of smaller, beautiful things, which would make lovely birthday presents for friends and family over the next year. But my advisers explained that this The Art & Soul of Greensboro

was rude: My generous wedding guests wanted to give something pretty to me, not to my friends and family. I accepted the wisdom of this sound argument, but will point out that it was made by people who didn’t once return an unused, jumbo bottle of Piggly Wiggly-brand club soda to get the $1.19 in cash. Nathan, by the way, was totally befuddled by the prospect, asking, “But what do you do with a tureen?” I replied, “You look at it.” To be honest, I, of course, wanted one; they’re beautiful. I just wasn’t sure I’m the sort of person who’d actually have one. I don’t cook much, so it would exist exclusively as a work of art, and the rest of our art is modern, alternative . . . how to explain . . . my aunt calls it “bohemian.” But I do have fond memories of my mother’s tureen — as well as a strong memory of the day my sister and her friend shattered it. While they jumped around in our other sister’s room, a ball on the chandelier, hanging from the ceiling directly beneath them, unhooked itself and crashed onto the tureen, taking out, with eerie precision, a depicted lemon wheel, and splaying cracks across the lid in every direction outward from the wheel’s circumference. I called Mom recently to ask if she’d cried that day. “I think I was too angry to cry,” she said, and then added, “but . . . you know . . . it was just a thing.” True, but . . . you know . . . we never jumped around in that room again. And . . . you know . . . now that my sisters have young children, they keep their own tureens — also acquired with store credit from wedding-registry duplicates — bubble-wrapped in closets. At the time of my wedding, I used this last bit of information, to buttress the anti-tureen argument, but my council of elders had a response for that too: Even if I didn’t want one now, I would later, when I was older, but by March 2014

O.Henry 45

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