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Donna Flood
The Red Dishes


Lizzie was an aging Native American woman of the Ponca tribe. Her family was all grown with children and grandchildren of their own. She lived a quiet life in a very nice section of her little town. She had one unmarried daughter who lived with her not so much to care for her but simply as a companion. Lizzie didn't need care. She was typical of the elder folks of the tribe who would live their lives fully, up until the last moment.

She always called her children 'sister' or 'brother' just as when they were children. "Sister, don't forget tomorrow is my garage sale day!"

Her daughter did not have to be reminded of this weekend ritual. It didn't matter that her mother had oil royalties, a home paid off, lease money coming from her land, and a frugal spirit, which lent her no chance of spending any part of her more than adequate income.

"I never forget Mother," came the dutiful daughter's response. She had a career and worked as a bookkeeper all week long. To be able to sleep in one day was only possible if it was pouring rain or a blowing blizzard.

"Mama, I was just wondering, aren't you tired of picking up those pieces of red glass. You would think you had enough of it."

"I just like it," came the little Indian woman's quietly stated polite reply. "And besides, mind you, I found a creamer and sugar bowl last week."

"Oh yes, you did. Well then, by all means, we must go tomorrow," her daughter, sighed.

Lizzie walked slowly and methodically up to each table in every garage of one after another of the homes where the sales were held. If she was slow in her pace, and a little unsteady because of her failing eyesight, this did not deter her search.

"Well hello! It is good to see you out, Lizzie," someone or other would greet her. She had lived in the little town or out from it since she was just a girl, and although, many of the folks her age were gone, she still had an acquaintance with a large number of the citizens there. Her daughter would tell you that this was the real reason her mother walked these garage sales while, picking out her red glass with a sharp eye.

Week after week, year after year, and she always continued her search. She was pretty well complete as to her owning a matched set. She had water pitchers, plates, cups and saucers, all parts of a set of dishes, even to candle holders. They were all in that dark blood red color. At the end of her life the little china closet stood totally full of the lovely red dishes.

Now this same china closet stood in one of Lizzie's granddaughter's home. The very old antique closet holding the dishes was quite accepted since it had been almost like a member of the family, always there.

The granddaughter's now visited about many things, their children, good times, hard times and what they had gone through to raise their own children who also now had children of their own.

"You like my new sofa," one of the women asked.

"Why, of course, but where on earth did you get the money to buy it?"

"I didn't, I borrowed the money."

"You did, and pray tell, what did you use for collateral?" One of the sisters wanted to know.

"Grammas' Red Dishes!"

The woman's sisters were aghast. "What? You do not mean it. I can't believe it."

With cool aplomb the sister stated, "Oh yes, I've used them for years for collateral. This glassware is quite an object for collectors. They are the kind of dishes made a beautiful red by the use of gold in the glass when it is hot. I've even used them to buy a car," came the matter of fact answer.

One of the sisters responded with, "I only have one thing to say, I am so proud of you. I know Gramma Lizzie would have been equally as pleased. Wasn't she a special person?"

"You know," the older sister, continued, "I don't feel so foolish about collecting my amber glassware. I started with that after I read how amber was washed ashore from out of the ocean. It is a kind of a resin, which supposedly holds an electrical charge. The Latin word for amber is electrum. Of course, I don't collect it for that purpose.

The whole idea of collecting is more tied up with the memory of Gramma Lizzie's collecting. I often wonder if she knew what she was doing bringing the pieces together in a set or was it just that she loved the beautiful red color as I love the amber color? I'm sure the pieces I have are not really amber. Somehow, this is the important thing, the memory.

Of course, there is another memory involved and that is of a grandmother on Dad's side, Gramma Bell's mother, Elizabeth Ann Collins. She, I'm told, loved amber as well. Gramma Bell told me about that when I used to ask her about the amber colored glass doorstop which looked like a big piece of resin not unlike the resin she used to resin her violin bow strings."

There was a quiet gentle spirit of love upon the room and on the women too. They all could feel it. They left their visit with renewed energy not from something as fragile as glass, but from a deeper respect and understanding of the great love of the women who went before them.


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