Still, there were things that had to get done that couldn't be accomplished nearby. Because the North Country is a retail desert, we postponed the necessary shopping until our annual trip to New York City where we would fetch our younger son, who was in art school there, and take him home for Thanksgiving.
So, on a Tuesday afternoon in late November, we set out in mid-Manhattan with an ambitious shopping list: wedding rings, wedding dress, groom's suit, and the most challenging purchase of all: a china set for 12 because the rehearsal dinner was also happening at our house and we didn't have nice stuff.
We began the spree at 2 PM, with a strict deadline of 7 because, to add to the hustle and excitement of the day, we had theater tickets. And off we went with our son in tow, practically running to our first destination. Simple gold bands--done. A long, burgundy dress from the bridal shop at Sax Fifth Avenue, surprisingly affordable, the only dress I tried on--done. A gray suit that could be worn on other occasions--done. It's a miracle to me now that we had enough disposable income to pay for all this loot and the theater as well, but maybe I'm blocking out the damage we did to our credit cards that year.
Our son even got a winter coat.
Then we tried to pick out the china. This wasn't going to be easy because my husband and I do not have the same taste. I like color, and he likes everything to be modest and subtle. Plus we didn't really know enough about china to know what was a reasonable amount to spend. We looked in four stores and everything we both liked was well beyond our budget. Plus, we were getting hungry. We finally gave up and found a Thai place by the theater, grateful that we'd accomplished all that we had.
To be honest, we were so unaccustomed to buying stuff and had lived in our small North Country village for so long that we felt like country bumpkins lost in the big metropolis, overwhelmed and fatigued in all those brightly-lit stores.
Plus, as someone who grew up eating on chipped plates, buying china felt a little alien. This purchase seemed to usher in the official end to the bohemian existence I'd built my identity around for as long as I could remember.
Also, I have a tendency to break things, which is one of the reasons why I knew I needed to bring meditation into my life. Wine glasses never last long in my possession. This summer I even managed to destroy the recharger for our I-Pods by squeezing it too hard. So buying china--enough for 12 people--was something that gave me pause. Our normal dinnerware is as solid as wood, which is why we still have it as I write this blog, 20 years on.
At an outlet mall somewhere off the highway, maybe New Jersey, when we were on our way north from the city, we found the perfect set. It's subtle without being bland: a delicate pattern of pale blue and cream. You can also put it in the dishwasher.
But just in case, we got 13 of everything.
It turns out that 13 is a great number, because every semester I have a group of students of about that size over for lunch, and it's nice to be able to serve them on dinnerware that matches without having to resort to paper plates.
I'm pretty relaxed about using the good china. In the ten years that have passed since our wedding, I always think it'll be no big deal, if I, or someone else, maybe an exhausted student, drops one of these plates or salad bowls. Hey, we have an extra.
But no one ever has. Buying 13 of everything was the insurance that we wouldn't break them.
My husband sometimes buys lottery tickets, but he gave up asking me for lucky numbers long ago when nothing ever came to mind. I like the number 3, because, among other reasons, it's sort of a trope in writing to have things happen three times, like there's a beginning, a middle, and an end, but that's all I've got in my numinous number repertoire.
But today I'm thinking that Day 13 of any new habit you want to bring into your life--meditation, writing, blogging, walking, quitting smoking, knitting, or as my sister said will be her 108-day-project, eating pie--feels pretty good. It's like the new practice has entered its teens.
The habit isn't old enough to drive, or vote, or serve our country, or major in neuroscience, and it's still got zits, and authority issues, and it wants, endlessly, to cut corners when doing its homework, but it's out of its infancy. And that, just for today, makes me feel lucky.