My mother broke every plate in the house that day. In her country, she’d told me when I was little, broken plates and glasses brought good luck. We’d be winning the lottery soon enough, I thought, as she was dragging her feet through sharp shards of porcelain, talking to herself in a low voice. “Peasant!” she cried, and smashed a flowered soup bowl against the counter. It took three or four tries and it only broke in two, almost identical pieces, one could still probably eat out of if they tried. I remembered it, it’d been a wedding or baptism gift we only got out when we had people over for dinner. Tough soup bowls were now a thing of the past.
They had all been like blessings to me. The slammed door and the echo I’d felt shaking the windows for half a second, the broken dinner plates cutting the floor and the soles of her feet. The two of them, they’d become dry skins of the people they used to be. Two random pieces of molten plastic, mistakenly glued together after a fire mishap. It was a blessing to see it turn to dust. “Liar! Lying peasant!” and then some sort of boiling silence, as there were no more porcelains left to break.
I was counting the scratches on the table top. Scars left behind by nana, auntie Jean and mother, the three of them endlessly chopping the same vegetables every day for decades on end. The juices of meats and tomatoes had filled the lines with the color of earth. I would not keep it, I decided. I knew I’d have to wait for them all to die before I could throw it out without breaking their hearts and having myself removed from their wills. It was going to take twenty years, maybe more, but I’d be patient. I was determined. My children would not rest their elbows on that table top. They would not see the map of our unhapiness scratched in rotten wood. My children would have good lives. No porcelain either, plastic would be the new thing by then. Who’s ever heard of a smashed plastic plate?
My father was gone for six days. On the seventh he came back and couldn’t find a glass for his drink. He slammed his fist on the table top, his fingernails dirty with damp earth. Mother was sorry, crying over the broken porcelains. I tore a sheet from my history schoolbook and made a paper cup. The ink was slowly fading, mixing with the wine. Father was drinking the story of the Roman Republic, his lips turning darker with every sip. My fingertips were tracing the lines on the table top. The next day, they said, we would drive to the market. We needed plates.
642 Things to Write About is a book of writing prompts lovely V. got me a couple of years back.