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  • Writer's pictureJeanette Vermilya

Time to Remember

They have been there all the time! In a safe place, on the highest shelf of one of my dish cabinets they were neatly positioned – all in a row. Ten small-stemmed dessert dishes, green and fragile, made of what is called “Depression Glass” were brought out of hiding to be washed, shined, and enjoyed.

They had belonged to my grandmother, then passed down to me. They have been treasured and protected for safe-keeping and remembering the past. Over and over in Scripture we are told to “remember.” Rediscovering the little green glass dishes set the stage for me to remember God’s many deeds and grace in my life.

Kept in a trunk, placed in the corner of a cupboard, or tucked away in a box, I always knew they were “there,” and they were mine. I had been the chosen granddaughter to receive them. But they would never be used randomly as everyday serving pieces. After being washed and rinsed, made sparkly clean, we “reunited.” If they could have commented I think they would have said, “Please take us off the shelf; we want to serve again in the mainstream of life.”

Now, the almost 90-year-old, delicate, antique treasures, known as Depression Glass, grace the dining room table with renewed value and dignity. Pride and joy rise in me as the dishes stand ready to be filled with a pudding, custard, or cherry-topped ice cream dessert, then served to complete a meal. The precious little dishes have been “rediscovered,” and a story has emerged with them. I think what I like best about the story is that the little glass dishes are more than what is known as “collectibles,” they are still usable, enjoyed, and fill me up with fresh gratitude for family and home, where life began.

It would be understated that times were tough during the Great Depression. I’m not sure what would happen in our culture today if we had to experience what the much older generation had to live through. Loss of jobs or severe pay cuts, living on little or nothing was a way of life for many families for the decade of the 1930’s. Especially for women, I can imagine the bit of cheer that a small gift on a dreary day might bring.

Glass factories, like Federal Glass in Columbus, Ohio, and Anchor Hocking made this possible as they, too, tried to stay afloat economically. I understand that glass was very inexpensive. For example, a bowl or plate could be purchased for a few cents. To promote sales, merchants of soap powder, oatmeal, flour, cornmeal and other dry products could purchase pieces of glassware from manufacturers and include them in the boxed items. This would promote buying the products.

The picture is of a gift my grandmother received by purchasing Mother’s Oats for the family. A surprise dish was included in every purchase. What an incentive to purchase and use these products! Even back then women loved freebies, as we do today. As I write I can almost personally feel the thrill of opening that box! I can picture Grandma smiling, admiring, feeling, and carefully placing this treasure in her little humble kitchen.

My parents and grandparents have shared experiences of going through the Depression era. Living frugally, resourcefully, strengthening ties with family, neighbors, and friends, helping each other. Gardening, livestock, wood and coal fuel, and cooking everything from “scratch” was the norm. There were no shortcuts. During wartimes, certain items were even rationed for purchase. There were no “extra” material things. I can’t help but think that faith in God must have developed, and that dependence on Him was learned and practiced during these years.

Many footprints of those who blazed trails for their children and later generations are evident today. With gratitude we thank God for the lessons gleaned from hard times and for the solid life-foundations laid. We need to remind ourselves, too, that the God of yesterday, their God, is our God today. He is faithful and cannot change.

I am not a collector of Depression Glass as a hobby or just because it is rich with history. Some collectors search for specific varying colors like pink, blue, amber, or white to add to their sets. My little green ones from oatmeal boxes are just right. They bring me joy and lift my spirit. With yogurt, fruit, and granola artistically layered in the dish, along with a steaming cup of coffee, I can visit yesteryear with my Grandma, Sarah Josephine, for whom I am named (Sarah Jeanette), and maybe even wander through a “dime store” where treasures abounded.

I believe the Lord is pleased when we share our life stories with children and grandchildren. It’s important that they know their roots and glean principles and biblical precepts. I love my little green dishes as keepsakes, but they open my heart to stories that remind me of God’s grace in my life. I remember, and I am grateful. In my book of stories, “Come and Have Breakfast,” I use a challenge that Moses gave to the children of Israel from Deuteronomy 4:9 for my readers. It is applicable for today:

“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”


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