If Cheese Boards Could Talk

Every wedding gift has its own story

As I sat on my kitchen floor last month, packing to move to a new apartment big enough for our growing family, I paused over a ceramic cheese board with a swirling floral design. All of a sudden it was 1996 again, and Jeremy and I were registering at Bloomingdale's. We had carefully selected all the pots, pans, dishes, and glassware we'd need and were about to hand in the list when I spotted the quirky little cheese board. I picked it up and decided it was pretty but completely frivolous. Still, every registry could use a little whimsy, right? We added it to the list.

Now, eight years later, I'm reminded of all the gatherings where this seemingly impractical gift has performed so admirably: the housewarming we threw when we had finally saved enough for a down payment on a cute two-bedroom; the wine-tasting party I planned for the sole purpose of introducing two single friends (the evening was a hit, the matchmaking was not) and, more recently, the playgroups I've organized—my friends nibbling Brie as our children chase one another around the living room.

My reverie made me realize that when friends and family give you wedding gifts, they are not just stocking your cupboards and closets. They are providing you with the stories that will make up your life. As I packed the silver serving platter given to me by a cousin, I was immediately transported to the first Thanksgiving we hosted. Our parents sat in rickety folding chairs around a bridge table, and let's just say my first attempt at making corn bread stuffing was less than successful. But the meal was a wonderful merging of our two families, and the turkey looked divine on the platter. In another box, I carefully placed a crystal vase from Tiffany's that had held the flowers my husband sent when our first child was born.

Some gifts have deeper layers of memory and meaning. There's the cake server with a swan-neck handle from my friend Sharon. Each time I use it, I think about how long we've known each other. I remember the first day we met: We were both six, and she had just moved into the house across the street. I can still see the circa-1973 plaid stretch pants she wore as she shyly crossed the street and offered to share her marshmallow treats. Now, 30 years later, her son and my daughters play Legos together.

Even some of the oddball gifts—ones we didn't register for and didn't particularly like—have found their place in our family history. A former coworker gave me a small brass lamp that I thought was interesting but not really my taste. I couldn't quite figure out what to do with it. As it turns out, it fits perfectly next to my three-year-old daughter's favorite armchair, and we read Winnie-the-Pooh stories by its soft light every night before bed. That coworker moved to Seattle and I haven't seen her in years, but in a small way, she is still part of our lives.

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