The Blessing of the Ugly Casserole Dish

photo by Stacy Lynn Baum @ flickr.com

A little nostalgia, if you will indulge me. My husband and I attended a wedding this past Saturday night: Fifteen years and two days after our own wedding day. The day after we were married, as my new husband and I were opening our wedding gifts, we quickly noticed someone had given us a used casserole dish. It was yellow and chipped; it was even a little dirty. I ranted: “Who would give us a used dish?!” I was astonished and, frankly, pretty pissed.

Then I read the card.

The casserole dish had come from a distant aunt who was in her early 90s at the time, and quite ill. Still, Aunt Bea wanted to send us something. Her husband, whom she had loved dearly, had passed away by then and she was alone. In her beautifully written penmanship, Bea explained that a dear friend had given her (and her new husband) that very casserole dish that I now had before me over fifty years earlier. She apologized about the chips and dings, but pointed out that the dish had seen her family through the good years and the lean years. That casserole dish had fed them through The Great Depression, fed their children and grandchildren. She told me that – while she no longer cooked her own meals – she still cherished the dish, but now she wanted me to have it.

Suddenly, everything changed. I no longer hated the old, used casserole dish; I cherished it. It was infused with so much meaning, and over the years I used it all the time. I always put sweet things in it: apple crisp or blueberry cobbler. So many yummy things.

Not too long ago, my casserole dish split into two pieces as I carefully washed it in the sink. It was old and fragile. Its time had come. Nevertheless, I wept. Who knew that something that I had thought represented such a thoughtless gesture would become one of my most precious possessions? It was hard to throw away the pieces.

Now whenever my husband and I attend people’s weddings — while we don’t give them something used — we nearly always give the couple a hand-thrown casserole dish, usually one made by my husband’s uncle, Earl Jacobson, a talented, local potter, and we attach a note explaining the story about the casserole dish we received on our wedding day. We always wish the bride and groom well and hope that — in the very least — they always have a pot to cook in. (Then we stick a check inside!)

It is amazing how one’s perspective can quickly change when presented with the right lens through which to view things. Ugly things can become beautiful; things that seem like curses can be blessings in disguise. Aunt Bea taught me that sometimes my eyes lie. Sometimes people have to go deeper and see with their hearts.

What is something you have unexpectedly come to cherish?

19 responses to “The Blessing of the Ugly Casserole Dish

  1. There are few people left in this world that can appreciate such a gift from the heart. And in her mind it was the most treasured thing she could unselfishly pass on. During the holidays I think I am the only person left that still likes getting a home made fruit cake or another set of hand sewn pot holders and oven mittens! And have saved those crude paper and crayon cards from children and now grandchildren. They are my most valued thngs except for the Bible they gave me at the Presbyterian church when I was 12.

  2. Nice work blogger!

  3. Fabulous story. If we look at the things we surround ourselves with and use most often its the things that have special meaning. My parents are renovating their home and as a result they are getting “rid” of things that no longer fit. Luckily I LOVE finding spots in my home and life for meaningful pieces. I must have raised my kids to value things in this fashion also as we packed and tossed in preparation to move they collected all sorts of things.

  4. This bloggie made me smile =D I was just having this type of conversation with a long time friend. My mother always had this plate on her coffee table that we were never aloud to touch. Not the prettiest plate mind you, but my grandmother had made it. As kids we always joked about someday inheriting it and being able to break it because we couldn’t touch it. That was our big joke as kids. You know how some people always want the things of value when people pass on. I want that plate! It has no monetary value, it is not beautiful and it is sorta ugly. I want that plate because my grandmother made it, now as an adult it has meaning to me. She created that plate with her two hands. I won’t fight for the Stickley furniture or the antique cars and other valuable things. My grammy passed away last year and I want the plate =D

  5. What a wonderful story. You are so right with how our narrow focus can distort the true meaning & value!

  6. When my husband and I got married, we registered for, among other things, lovely blown-glass stemware– very delicate and very simple. We had visions of equally lovely dinner parties with other lovely couples, candles on the table, and fine wine and stimulating conversation.
    When we were opening our wedding gifts, we found one box without a card. It contained a dozen ornate, cut crystal goblets with wide accent bands of gold, each band decorated with elaborate designs. We really couldn’t believe that anyone who had seen our registry would EVER think that these– things– were our taste! Then I found out that they were from my grandmother. She was very clear about the fact that they were a present from HER– not my grandfather. He had written the check. She selected these ALL BY HERSELF.
    Well, a few years passed, and we never really got around to those fancy dinner parties. We had kids. Our friends and family had kids. Parents aged and suddenly all of the major holidays were celebrated at our house– Thanksgiving, Passover….
    And the lovely blown-glass stemware was too delicate. It wasn’t very good for holding soda pop for the kids… and was a little too lightweight to hold ice. But my ornate cut crystal goblets fit the bill perfectly. I even got another dozen tacky gold-rimmed goblets to go with them when we had the larger crowds.
    Grandma knew. She helped me set the kind of table that was really important in life– one full of friends and family and generations and traditions.

  7. I was the first grandchild on my mother’s side to become engaged. As soon as he heard, my Grandfather started talking about what type of tux he should get for my wedding. He was so proud! He got sick and didn’t live to see me get married, but I always have the knowledge that he wanted to celebrate my life in style!

  8. What a sweet story – and what a loving gesture that Aunt Bea gave you something that was so special to her. I like that you actually *used* her gift, rather than putting it away in a cupboard so nothing would happen to it. I’m betting Aunt Bea was very happy to know that you used the casserole dish, rather than just letting it collect dust. What a lovely tradition to carry on, too!

  9. Giving a piece of hand made pottery (made by your uncle) is such a good gift idea. I have been representing local potters for over 26 years and the joy that people get when receiving a locally made work is very good to see. And the pieces are often better than work you would find in stores. Check out my site: http://www.sidestreetstudio.com

  10. For my son’s 12th birthday he wanted a bass guitar. He already had an acoustic as well as an electric guitar and needed the bass to round out his collection. I went to the local used music shop and picked out a beautiful, yet used, bass. I wrote on the note that while we may have the money for lots of new things, sometimes it is not about getting something new. This beautiful instrument was still capable of making music, it just needed the right hands to play it. He loved it and I trust he got the message. Thanks for your story, Renee, what a great reminder!

  11. What a beautiful story and memory to have. Thank you for sharing.

  12. This touched me deeply.

  13. I cried…so sweet, Renee.

  14. This actually made me cry a little bit. When I got married the first time around my grandmother gave me this somewhat gaudy necklace to wear on my wedding day. It didn’t go with my dress at all, it wasn’t modern or funky looking, which is my style of jewelry, it wasn’t even silver, which is the type of metal I wear, but she insisted I wear it anyway. I love my grandmother so much and without protest put it on. Now that she’s gone, I think of her every time I see it. I’m glad I wore it; its a part of her.

  15. I adore the dish you gave us for our wedding. It sits quite happily on my shelf with all the other pieces of special crockery and cookware. Such things are treasures, suffused as they are with the memory of hands and savory (or sweet) dishes and life. xxxo

  16. This is great. It is so funny how the simplest things can turn out to be the most treasured. I was really close with my Grandpa and he died 2 years ago. I inherited 2 things from him : the guitar pic he always carried in his wallet just in case and the UNO deck. The UNO deck was special because every time anyone was out at their farm it was brought out and played by all the aunts and uncles and cousins. We were a very musical family and we all sang or played something so usually after games we would play and sing old hymns or old country songs. Now I play the deck with my kids and I use grandpas pic to play my guitar. It makes me smile every time.

  17. What a wonderful post!

    My cousin’s wife is now pregnant, and guess what she and my cousin just received! An old wooden bed, entirely covered in woodworm holes, with an old rugged mattress . What a present, huh?!

    Turns out my grandmother received this bed as a wedding present. My mother and her sister had slept in it as kids. My aunt’s son, the father-to-be, had. Me and my little brother as well! Now my cousin’s child is going to be the sixth baby, or the third generation to have slept in this very bed.

    Now my cousin has cleaned and repainted the bed, fixed the broken bed frame, and replaced the mattress. This is what I call legacy!

    In my blog, I also wrote about my family’s historic Communist Corecom Fridge from 1982.

    I like your blog very much! I’ll keep reading!

  18. Pingback: Casser-Rollin’ | Unique Gifter

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