Fiesta for Jodi

My bride, looking pleased;
she also got chocolate…

Those of you who know my bride know she spends herself for others. She generally does not express anger, disapproval, discomfort, or exhaustion. She does her level best to anticipate the needs of others and to avoid being the cause of conflict. So foreign is her approach to me that the majority of the tensions between the two of us are the result of me projecting my own tendencies and motives onto her actions in a misguided attempt to understand her. I look at her and assume she’s like me – and apparently, I don’t always get along with me or like the way I think.

Two other things about Jodi:

  • Since she was a little girl, she has tried not to be a burden to others. As a result, once she asked her parents not to spend money on Christmas presents for her. Also, she recalls a death in the family when she was young, in which she was asked to be strong for her grieving relatives. She only rarely cried from that day forward, and her stoicism and general toughness (plus her origins on the plains of South Dakota) earned her the nickname Injun Jo from an elderly (and un-PC) friend of the family.
  • She is conservative in dress, but loves a colorful home. Our bedding gets more colorful year by year, our kitchen features colorful artwork, and she likes fun, brightly colored dishes and cookware.
She’s seeing a pattern!

When we first married, I worked in the housewares department of Younkers department store in Sioux Falls, and Jodi would visit the department to browse.  Seventeen years ago she began looking at Fiestaware dishes, drawn to them by the soft, bright colors: tangerine, lemongrass, peacock, sunflower, flamingo, and turquoise. Since she rarely buys anything for herself (and when she does, it’s on the cheap), we’ve used discount, cream-colored stoneware dishes for years now. Periodically, however, she would talk about how much fun it would be to have a mismatched set of Fiesta dishes – all different colors – to brighten up the kitchen and mealtime.

Jodi will turn an unmentionable age next weekend, so after 17 years of browsing and daydreaming, I decided it was time to act. A couple weekends ago, I planned a party for her. I invited family from Minnesota, Michigan, and South Dakota, and some friends from the area. It was a not-quite-surprise party – in order to pick and hold a date on our busy calendar, I had to let her know something was up, so I told her I was having some friends over for her birthday, and that was the weekend that worked best. I told her the kids and I would take care of everything.

I conspired with Jodi’s mom and sister and mine to buy her eight place settings in different colors, plus extra plates and bowls, then urged those guests who were planning to bring gifts to pick up serving pieces or Kohl’s gift cards that Jodi could use to add to her collection. Large boxes began showing up at our house (as well as money from relatives contributing to the gifts). It turned out better than a surprise party, in that Jodi was for weeks trying to figure out what was going on.

Big smile, blushing.

I’ll confess that once the plans were in motion, I became paranoid: what if I misremembered or misinterpreted how much she wanted these dishes? When I worked at Younkers, I would politely steer men away from the kitchen area when seeking gifts for their spouses. What if she was so excited – then crushed at the prospect of…just dishes?

But when I told the kids of my plan, Rose lit up. “Every time we go to Kohl’s, she walks through the kitchen area and walks past the Fiesta dishes, then walks back to them and looks,” she said.

A candle per decade? Can’t be!
C’mon — no boyfriends!

When people began showing up the day of the party – from South Dakota, Minnesota, and Michigan – Jodi was surprised and delighted. Later in the evening, when we insisted she open her gifts (she didn’t want to interrupt the visiting or to be the center of attention) she was genuinely floored. She opened one package, then another, and began to discern the pattern. Then she blushed, and smiled and smiled.

Mixed and unmatched

After 17 years of desire and denial, it was time, don’t you think? I used to call her my “bright side”—it’s about time I found a way to be hers.  Happy birthday, love!

3 thoughts on “Fiesta for Jodi

  1. I have always loved Fiesta Ware, especially the old pieces. But the new is just as bright and colorful and invites laughter & joy for some reason.

    Good job Jim, she will treasure it for ever. There is something about kitchenware that just draws a woman to touch and admire. I have the original pots and pans I received in 1975 for a wedding gift along with other odds and ends I've picked up since. I use it almost every day. But, it never, ever goes in the dishwasher!

    Thanks for sharing a fun time with your family! Give Jodi and the kids my love!

    Deb Baumann


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