Have you ever had a set of pope plates? I have, I just put my name on the dotted line. My first apartment after leaving the Marine Corps and transitioning into civilian life; I was excited. After unloading everything I had into the 700 sq ft. studio apartment with extra high ceilings I looked to what I had, two sea bags filled mostly with military gear and a backpack.
No furniture, no plates, barely any clothing, I had nothing. My first meal in that apartment was pizza, I absentmindedly forgot to ask for plates, napkins or plastic forks, so I ate over the box and wondered what I was going to do for my next meal without silverware.
I wasn’t used to walking into a place without everything I needed already there, nor was I used to not being able to walk to the chow hall for food, it was a surprisingly rough transition.
After a few years, I managed to collect everything needed to furnish a home, a bed, table, plates, TV, everything. I also, in one of my rare spending sprees, bought a very special set of silverware, which became my ‘pope plates’.
The term pope plates came from a joke I heard from a priest as a child. He was referring to people who have a set of fine china that never gets used. The kind that would only be pulled out if the pope came over which, even then he would have to handle them with care or risk suffering the wrath of the owner.
I had a very specific reason for having this silverware though, I wanted something nice for when I finally settled down into a home of my own. Moving from apartment to apartment wasn’t conducive to having nice things and I didn’t want to repeat my first apartment experience. I had never had a home before, but when I finally got one I wanted something nice to commemorate it.
For over five years, my eight person silverware set sat in its box. The box slowly started wearing down, it stopped looking new, and started looking like something that should just be thrown away.
Still, they sat in the box.
Then one day, my wife came into the picture and things changed. It was a familiar sight, everything was in boxes, being unpacked into new place, but this time I had a partner.
Without any pomp and circumstance, I quietly opened the silverware boxes and emptied each of them into the proper bamboo trays, seeing each piece again for the first time since I bought them. They were just as nice as I remembered, heavy duty, simple, but well crafted. Something that I could have for years to come and they would not fall out of fashion.
Then I simply explained to my wife the story behind them, but now that I was home they could come out. Then we hugged, kissed, and finished our unpacking.
So just like that, there were no more pope plates.
Because I was finally home.