Fiestaware

August 2, 2006

I went to a performance last night of a really wonderful monologue.

It happens to be written and performed by a member of my Austin parish and an adjuct professor at my seminary.

You can read a little bit about it here.  The title is American Fiesta, and it is a journey through Steven Tomlinson’s experience, and modeled in the setting of– you guessed it– Fiesta dinnerware.

In the performance, Tomlinson journeys through his adult life trying to put together fragments of his childhood and reconcile the differences he has with his parents over his sexual orientation and soon-to-be wedding with his partner Leon.  During this process, he discovers the joys of collecting Fiesta dinnerware.  Assumedly due to the imperfection in the rest of his life, he insists on adding only perfect pieces to his collection.

My favorite part of the performance is when he receives a bowl which has a knick in it.  He gets some advice from an old friend to take it to a woman who knows just what to do with such pieces, and much to Tomlinson’s surprise when he gets to her, she is blind.

Of course, it is difficult to recreate on a blog, but I got goosebumps when he described her taking the bowl from him, recreated her tracing it carefully with her fingers, saying, “aahhh- there’s where she got it with the mixing spoon, and there’s where its worn from beating the eggs” and so on.

She offered to buy it from him (he had been expecting her to patch it for him).  She told him that if wanted a nice, shiny bowl he should go buy a brand new one, not look for vintage stuff.

The point was made, and well-taken, at least on me.  How easy it is to look around in judgement at the nicks, scars, and scratches around us and wish they weren’t there.  How difficult it is to look around us and see the history- the years of work and experience which has taken us to where we are.  We so often fail to see the very things that give us all our own unique character.

Living in Southern California, I lived in Orange County for a while.  I hated it.  I’m not saying you should hate it- if you live there and love it that’s great.  But I hated it.  The houses were all the same– lined up in a row it looked like all new bowls, fresh off the factory floor.

When I moved to California, I moved to a 1908 Craftsmen house, with beautiful interior attention to style and detail– lots of character.  There was no other house around like it.  My neighborhood in Austin is the same.  No two houses look alike.  I live now in a 1917 Arts and Crafts house.  I feel so privileged to live in a home like this– I wonder how many people it has seen– how many mixing bowls have been in its kitchen, who mixed in them, and what they served.  The diversity, the different kinds of things that can be found in these neighborhoods, is what is interesting to me.

I like that.  I think it matches the world- it matches reality.

At the end of the show, Tomlinson pulls out all the original Fiestaware- nicks, cuts, scratches, and all- during his closing monologue and says, “There- that’s what heaven looks like.”

I think– I hope– he’s right.

j

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