First Silver


Example of fork from wedding set.

The diamond ring sparkled as I pushed my left hand back and forth through the bath water to work up more bubbles. Leaning back in the old fashioned claw-footed bathtub, I held up my hand to better examine the ring. The bright silver etched band had scallops which corresponded to the wedding band Arnie would be putting on my finger in one month. Light from the window behind me made the amazing stone and the bubbles around it sparkle with flashes of silver, gold, green and blue.

I smiled, thinking about Arnie. He was handsome and fun to be around and I knew without a doubt that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. Thoughts about our wedding preparations and the many things I had planned to do that day suddenly made me feel restless. Pulling the plug on the tub, I rinsed off bubbles, dried and dressed.

The bathroom window was open a crack and a warm March breeze whispered in, smelling fresh and with a hint of the red, bulging buds on the maple trees which towered over the house. Six months ago an elderly lady named Alma had rented me an upstairs bedroom and a bath in this house. I loved the place because it was just two blocks from the hospital where I worked. I didn’t own a car. Today I planned to walk twelve blocks to the stores downtown to buy a few things that I needed.

Just as I was about to leave, the girl who rented the other upstairs bedroom came out tousled and sleepy-looking, to use the bathroom. She’d worked the evening shift. As usual, we said, “Hi…bye!” as we passed, going our separate ways.

Frost had heaved some of the sidewalk slabs up, so I had to watch my step, especially on this side street lined with trees. I didn’t mind taking my time. The air smelled sweet and fresh. I couldn’t remember other springs feeling as new and full of promise as this one. A robin landed several feet ahead of me and snatched-up a juicy angle worm it had spotted in a sidewalk puddle.

My pace slowed as I walked past the Woolworth store. Something in the window at the Coast-to-Coast store caught my eye. I decided to go inside and look closer. A large sales table was covered with Oneida silverware sets. This was something I’d need in my new home with Arnie. I joyfully began to examine each design.

They were all beautiful, but the pattern that caught my eye made me think of Mom. She loved roses. The set I liked the most had an elegant recessed silhouette of a rose on the handle of each utensil. The pattern was named Capistrano. I picked up a box holding a place setting for eight and carried it to the check-out clerk. The price tag on it said fifty dollars. A moment later I stepped out of the store, outraged by the two dollar sales tax that had been added to the price.

My dismay over the tax was quickly forgotten. Although the box was a compact size, it grew heavier and heavier as I walked the twelve blocks back to my rented room on Western Street.

Years later when Arnie and I were raising our daughters, Niki and Tammie, I wanted more silverware. Unfortunately, by this time Oneida had stopped making the Capistrano pattern. I settled on a nondescript set just to extend utensil availability.

Although 46 years have passed, I still love the Capistrano pattern. Each time I visit a Goodwill store, or other resale stores, one of the first places I look is in their silverware boxes. Only once have I ever found a few utensils with my pattern. The world around me ceased to exist as I sorted to the bottom of the box and rejoiced over every serving spoon and fork that I had found.

The pattern name calls to mind the Californian mission, San Juan Capistrano, where the swallows return from Argentina each year on the feast of Saint Joseph, March 19th. When I hear the name I imagine sunny mission walls covered with roses and swallows swooping gracefully up to their mud nests above. This makes the fact that I bought the set during the month of March, maybe even right on the feast of Saint Joseph, all the more magical.


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