Arlene was beautiful.
The only problem she had was that she was born on the wrong side of the tracks, to the wrong family, to the wrong religion, and to the wrong sensibility.
She hated her parents’ home. She hated her last name. She hated her mother’s thriftiness and her father’s lack of sophistication.
She was quite popular in school, and quite naturally her friends would ask to come over to her house, however, she would make up different excuses as to why they couldn’t.
More than anything, she would try to have them not come during dinner. You see, her parents were immigrants from Europe; uneducated, uncultured and they had horrible table manners.
But that was not the worst: She despised their dishes.
Her mother would rejoice in buying melamine dishes, particularly the ones which had flowers on them even though they would soon be scratched and dulled. Her mother thought them so practical!
Arlene, who was quite savvy from early on, noticed the difference between her parents and the parents of her friends. Her friends’ parents didn’t have accents. They were “refined”. They never used their hands to eat. Their homes were bigger and their furniture was upscale. They didn’t raise their voices when they talked to each other, and they bought their clothes at Bullocks Wilshire, not at Zody’s like her parents..
Sometimes she wondered why the other parents let their children befriend her.
Early on she learned how to sew and she made “cute” but inexpensive clothes. She learned how to eat daintily, and adopted perfect elocution and a classy demeanor. All her friends’ parents adored her, and yet she was still insecure.
As she matured, she realized that her looks could be her entre into everything that was bigger and better. She started to work as soon as she could, as she desperately wanted better clothes. Her brother would tease her that she thought she was “hoity-toity”, but she did not care. She swore she’d change the way she lived if it’s the last thing she did!
At twenty, she met a wealthy insurance broker. He was handsome, rich and drove a beautiful car. She thought she was in love, and he left his wife for her. Arlene was ecstatic!
Shortly after they were married, she realized that he was exceedingly boring. Despite being a very hard worker and an excellent provider he didn’t care much about entertainment and culture, which was contrary to her friends’ parents who had subscriptions to the philharmonic, the theater and to museums.
So, she decided to live her life just like them, and when her husband would decline to go with her, she would take one of her single friends.
And at this point you might be thinking that Arlene must have had an affair, since she started spending more and more time without her husband. Well, you are wrong.
Arlene was not the type. Her love was towards status symbols, such as her home, her furniture, her clothes and her jewelry. But more than anything she loved-
She had set after set of fine china, each purchased with passion, excitement and compulsive greed. She had enough china to feed guests for days and never use the same set. And of course, she purchased several beautiful antique china cabinets to store most of her sets- and one exquisite armoire for her most precious “babies” – her dinner sets, three of them, which were exorbitantly expensive.
There was nothing that would make her more excited than to have her rich friends for dinner and set the table with her imported china, the likes of which they have never seen. A good cook she wasn’t, but she found an old lady who would cook for her, and they had some splendid and lavish dinners in her beautiful dining room with her beloved china.
Her life was full of beauty and fun, despite the fact that she could not conceive a child.
And then came the day when her heart was almost broken. Not because her husband threatened to leave her or that sort of thing. It was the Northridge earthquake which caught her off guard.
When the house started shaking she thought that she was dreaming; that she was on a cruise ship – but soon her husband was screaming “wake up and get out of the house, this is a big one!”
Awake now, she was of a quick mind, and realizing what was happening – she knew that there was no way she was going to leave her dishes behind.
Like any devoted mother who runs to their child’s room regardless of the danger, she too ran into the… dining room, screaming to her husband “come and help me!” He looked at her with horror in his eyes, and ran outside.
Arlene was not a very powerful woman…
But her house was shaking and she was hearing dishes falling down. She leaned against the big china cabinet with all her might – with a force she did not even know she possessed. She leaned and she leaned and the beautiful antique china cabinet did not fall. Her most prized possessions were not shattered!
As the tremors started to subside and her husband returned to the house, he saw his wife picking up pieces of china from the floor. However, the big armoire was intact. She looked at him, tears streaming down her face and said:
“I saved them, I saved them!”