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How These Ivy Dishes Drew Their Family Together

A mysterious set of plates showed a new bride that she was right where she was meant to be.

Sandy and her husband; Photo courtesy: Sandy Clay

“My mom found a house for us to look at,” said my fiancé, Jon. “It’s in Richfield, not far from where I grew up.”

“Wow, that’s great!” I said. “Maybe this will be the one.”

Jon and I had been searching for our first home for months. Nothing we’d seen so far seemed right. The listings in Richfield had been especially off the mark. But if my soon-to be mother-in-law, Ruthann, had come across a house for us to look at, I was going to check it out.

I hadn’t had much of a chance yet to get to know Ruthann. Her beloved grandmother, Nana, had recently died, and she’d been preoccupied with grief and helping the rest of Jon’s family clean out Nana’s house. Nana had been the heart and soul of the family, and Ruthann had been especially close to her. Not getting to meet Nana was one of my biggest regrets. I felt honored when Ruthann told me that Nana would’ve liked me. But it wasn’t the same as hearing it from Nana herself. Between not spending much time with Ruthann and not having met Nana, I felt as if I were struggling to find my footing with my future in-laws. I wanted to do whatever I could to draw us closer, including looking at this house that Ruthann had suggested.

The next day, as we drove over, Jon prepped me for the viewing.

“It’s only a little over our budget,” he said. “Oh, and it’s two stories—just what you like.”

I nodded and smiled. I wistfully thought of how I’d decorate our new home. The little knickknacks I’d collected over the years, waiting until I had the space to display them. Including the pretty set of plates I’d been storing away since the summer after my freshman year of college. They were cream and ringed with ivy. From the moment I’d spotted them at an estate sale, nestled among the hats, linens and old furniture, they seemed to beckon me. I knew I had to have them. Why, I wasn’t sure—they were out of my budget, and what did a college student need with a full set of ceramic dishes anyway? But I happily paid for them and walked away from the sale feeling as if I’d won a prize. I packed them carefully in a peach crate and stored them away.

They stayed in that peach crate while I finished college, graduated and studied to become an elementary school teacher. I also met Jon. We dated for about a year, then got engaged. Soon, I hoped, I’d finally have use for those dishes.

We pulled into the driveway and parked. I was pleasantly surprised—the house Ruthann picked definitely had curb appeal. It was charming. My hopes rose even more as Jon and I followed the real estate agent inside. Then we walked into the dining room.

I gasped. The dining room had a wallpaper border. An ivy border. It was so similar to my plates back home that it might as well have been designed to match. Jon had never seen the plates. He didn’t even know about them. But to me, the ivy border was a clear sign. We had found our home.

“Do you like this place?” I asked, holding my breath.

“I love it!” Jon said.

We made an offer and bought the house. We got married. Not long after, I got a job teaching at a school only four blocks away from where we’d soon be living. Everything seemed to be falling into place. Except I still felt more distant from Jon’s family than I would have liked. We got along, but was that enough?

When it came time to move, both of our families helped out, carrying in boxes, making the beds, filling the cupboards. I set a few things on the shelves in the dining room, leaving a large space in the center for my ivy plates. Ruthann walked in as I was carefully lifting the plates out of their peach crate.

“Where did you get those?” she asked.

“I bought them at an estate sale a long time ago,” I said proudly, happy that my mother-in-law seemed to like them. I held the plate up to the wall. “Look how perfectly they match the ivy border in this room!”

Ruthann sat down, shaking her head in disbelief. “Sandy, you don’t understand… Those dishes have the same pattern as the dishes Nana had in her house. So many family gatherings and special occasions happened with those plates. Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays…” She smiled, taking one in her hand. “We sold them along with the other items in the house. Now here you are, with a matching set you bought years ago…”

I could see it now. I needn’t have worried about fitting in with Jon’s family. Because long before Jon and I even met, God had been guiding us toward each other. Twenty-five years later, Jon and I are still in that house. And whenever we lay out those ivy dishes, we know Nana is there with us, drawing our family together.

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