For the past couple evenings - well, what I consider the evening is more like the middle of the night for most people - I've been rummaging around in the depths of my kitchen cabinets, trying to track down a certain pair of plates and matching mugs.
A picnic set.
These tried and true 80s gems came to me as wedding gifts, and my husband and I put them to immediate use on our cross-country honeymoon to California.
We lived in Chicago at the time - Evanston, Illinois, to be exact - so we really did cross a goodly portion of the USA.
And in the fashion to which we later became very accustomed, we practiced the fine art of rest stop picnicking along the way. Though breakfast and dinner were eaten in proper sit-down restaurants, lunch was always a picnic table in the sunshine, with our new red dishes front and center.
See? Here's proof.
As the years and then decades flew by and our family grew from two to six, the red picnic dishes began to drift toward the back of the kitchen cupboards. I realized lately that I hadn't seen them in a while.
I also realized that they are old enough now to be considered vintage. The Heller brand has enjoyed a bit of resurgence in the new millennium, and I've seen these very same pieces on Etsy and Ebay for a price well in excess of the originals.
Night before last, I finally turned up some good news. I found the plates! Just as I'd suspected, they were buried underneath a stash of plastic Mariners soda cups but none the worse for wear.
I was, in a word, overjoyed.
But my quest was not yet ended because the matching mugs were not in the same location, as I had crossed my fingers and hoped that they would be.
Last night, as I triple-checked the weird cupboard over the fridge that houses orphans, and took a quick tour through my overflow dish storage in the garage, I remembered with a sinking feeling a prior cleaning binge from several years back.
Some part of my brain recalled that I'd been considered getting rid of my red plastic picnic gear - I mean, we now have a full set of camp dishes for a family of six, so why did I need these old codgers too? And while I obviously hadn't parted with the plates, I seemed to recall making a weird deal with myself that if I let go of the mugs, it would be okay to keep the plates.
Ugh. I'd given away my 1984 red Heller mugs and I was consumed with regret.
So I did what any red-blooded declutterer does when she realizes she has gone too far.
I jumped online and scoured up some replacements.
Now these replacement mugs looked exactly like the ones I'd had before. But they were not cheap.
I thought about what else that money could buy.
I remembered my shopping ban.
I reasoned that I had made the decision to let the originals go.
I reminded myself that don't need two thirty-year-old chunks of plastic to feel good about myself.
These thoughts didn't even slow me down.
I plowed through to my shopping cart and began ticking through the screens as I placed my order.
And just as I was about to enter my CVC number - which means I pushed back my chair to go get my wallet because I can memorize the 16 digits of my debit card number but I never remember that three-digit code - I suddenly had a vision.
The red plastic mugs were in the picnic basket.
Yes, we also received a cute little Yogi Bear-style pic-a-nic type basket with our red dishes and that, I knew for sure, was safe and sound out in the garage. My mind suddenly seemed to recall putting the mugs in the empty basket as a clever way to store them, I couldn't be 100% sure but I could definitely:
sprint through the house,
haul the basket off its high shelf,
flip open the lid,
and look inside.
Which is exactly what I did.
And this is what I found.
My heart surged with happiness as I re-introduced plates to mugs and happily admired their timeless beauty.
I promptly cancelled out of my pending order, and wished the replacement dishes well. I hope they go to someone who really did get rid of their 1980s wedding gift and regretted it as much as I temporarily did.
This morning, my friends and I held a quick photo shoot to celebrate their reunion.
I even invited the napkins that came along with the picnic dishes to join in. After all these years and countless al fresco meals, they are still in mint condition. Sadly, the coordinating tablecloth has long since bit the dust. We loved it well.
And then, to round out the reunion, I added my picnic basket to the scene. Now the whole picnic gang is reunited and I could not be happier.
P.S. In case I ever forget, please remind me that the plates, mugs and napkins are now all being stored inside the picnic basket. I won't get fooled again.
P.P.S. Bonus footage of me on my honeymoon amidst the blooming flowers of Napa Valley.