A broken dish full of bad memories-- I broke my least favorite-favorite dish while scraping leftover tuna casserole into the dog's dish. Let me explain: It was my favorite dish because I used it for absolutely everything--steamed rice, mashed potatoes, broccoli casserole, spaghetti, you name it. It was my least favorite dish because it had been given to me as a wedding gift by one of my least favorite people, my former boss, Cheri Posh (I changed her name because I don't want her to come looking for me).
The ceramic lidded bowl was from the Laura Ashley collection, a design called "petite fleurs." The name was as affected as the gift giver. She presented me with the large, square, artfully wrapped box nearly 20 years ago, placing it in my hands like it was a gift from the magi. I opened it slowly, lifting it from the many layers of silver tissue paper. "Thank you, Cheri. It's beautiful," I said. My gratitude was genuine, if short-lived. The moment was destroyed by the following comment: "Well, I thought it looked like you," she cooed in that sing-songy drawl, "kind of. . .farmy."
Those words have stuck in my craw for nearly two decades. Not that there is anything wrong with being farmy, as in "one who lives on a farm," but in the thesaurus of her mind "farmy" read "red-neck". I'll bet Laura Ashley never came within 50 miles of a farm. I wanted to tell Ms. Posh I'd be sure to invite her to dinner when I served cow patties in her bowl. I, in fact, was born and raised in the suburbs, 40 miles north of Detroit.
My then husband was from rural Alabama, where we made our home. I overheard co-workers (members of the I-Can't-Stomach-Cheri Posh fan club) that she had, ironically, grown up on a farm in rural Alabama--or a "plantation" as she preferred to call it. "Yes, I remember as a child my father driving the slaves out into the fields of our plantation." "Excuse me, lady, but just how old are you?" I wanted to ask. Apparently she'd missed that whole abolition thing in 1865. I did, however, feel like I was wearing a ball and chain whenever I was around her.
I think she confused her life with the movie, Gone With the Wind. Next thing you know she'd be telling me her boyfriend's name was Rhett. But the delusions of grandeur and hope of fame did not end there with Scarlett, I mean Cheri. If there was anything newsworthy happening in town you can bet she'd knock down the mayor himself for a photo op. Not before calling for make-up, of course. "Make sure this is sent to my hometown newspaper today," she said. She slapped a local newspaper clipping on my desk.
"Lord, yes we gotsta let dem know da small-town girl done made it big don't we, massah?". "Hate" is such a strong word, but I'm afraid if someone held a gun to my head and asked me to name one person I hated, I would be forced to blurt out her name (ok, maybe the gun thing is a little extreme, all they would actually have to do is ask). The woman just had a way of making you feel small. Like the time she commented on how "cute" my dress was, then grabbed the tag at the back of my neck to find out its maker. "Ohhh," she would declare with disdain.
Or, when she would pass my office when returning from lunch and, rather than stopping in for her messages, would continue on to her lair, buzz me, and demand that I bring her her messages. I could go on and on, but after two decades I guess its time to bury the proverbial hatchet--hope I wiped all the fingerprints off. . .I'm kidding! Really, now that I am older, more mature, I realize it was her own insecurities that made her belittle and demoralize me. And as much as I hate to admit it, I did like that dish. It was just so, well. . .farmy.