Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Nancy Reagan died this past Sunday; she’ll be buried today following a funeral service at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Much has been written about the former First Lady since Sunday. There is no need for me to elaborate on her style, her love for her husband, and her tenacity in carefully protecting his legacy because I know that you, dear readers, do not live under a rock.
Not that there is anything wrong with living there.
I was living under one in the autumn of 1984. I was a sophomore at the University of Maine at Orono, a resident of the then all-female dorm, Androscoggin Hall. There was a presidential election taking place but I was oblivious to it. I don’t remember candidates coming to speak or their minions unleashing “ground game artillery” on us students. There were football games to attend with occasional outbursts of the Maine Stein Song. There was bad coffee to drink in The Bear’s Den in those hours between classes. We had no internet and just a ten inch black and white Tee Vee in our dorm room we used only for soap operas, not presidential debates.
As the election drew near, I realized I’d be voting for the first time in my life. Who was running, anyway? I consulted a friend who was dating a ROTC boy. She named the two candidates – current president Ronald Reagan and Walter “Fritz” Mondale. I asked her how she would cast her vote. I don’t recall if she answered me directly, but I do remember her telling me she was impressed with the elegance of the current FLOTUS. Then she said “and Nancy Reagan bought all that beautiful new china for the White House.”
From under my rock, I hadn’t heard of the great china controversy and the stinging criticism launched at Mrs. Reagan when she purchased new dishes for the White House. My friend’s comment must have triggered pleasant memories of my mother’s own “special dishes.” They were nothing too fancy, just a set of Johnson Brothers’ “Friendly Village” she’d collected over time. Or maybe I was thinking of my Aunt Anna’s many sets of dishes, including her (gasp, so extravagant) Christmas china, a Lenox pattern if I recall correctly.
I didn’t even know what the Reagan china looked like. Nevertheless, Nancy Reagan’s spirit of style and elegance carried me down to the Memorial Gym and I voted for her husband. As it turned out, President Reagan won the election in a landslide. It wouldn’t have stopped the march of history if I’d voted for Fritz.
I still love dishes. I have a set of Wedgwood Queensware I bought at a thrift store for twenty dollars. I admired the pattern “Edme” for a long time and I couldn’t believe my luck in finding it as such a steep discount. I don’t know if I’ll ever have a proper set of bone china, but from time to time I reminisce about my dream dishes, Wedgwood’s “Ulander Ruby.” It was expensive when I first admired it after graduation from college and because I don’t have a formal dining room, I probably won’t invest in such a purchase now. It’s similar to the Reagan china, without the presidential seal.
It’s Friday, it’s been a long week of writing here at the old house. I’ll leave you with this reggae song by the Blue Riddim Band about Nancy Reagan to start your day. It was likely written as an ironic response to the “great White House china controversy” and everything else “Nancy Reagan” but the lyrics are easy to remember, regardless of their intent:
“My name is Nancy Reagan, my husband’s name is Ron. He rules our nation.”
“All my clothes are from the best designers. All my china is a perfect match.”
The past…it’s another country.