Dishing up memories

My Mom has this tradition of changing out her everyday Corelle dishes and glassware for Christmas dishes and glasses. It’s as much a sign of the holiday as the antique ornaments from Great-Grandma on the tree and her distinctly inclusive Nativity display on the piano.

And every year, as Dad helps her haul out boxes of Christmas decorations, Mom still gives the same warning to be careful with her “favorite glasses.”

They ought to be her favorite, after all we went through to get them, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

It all started in 1980-something, when the restaurant chain Arby’s had a promotion. Buy a sandwich, and get a festive holiday glass. These weren’t your typical 1980s cartoon character giveaways, mind you. No, these were classy Libby glassware, with cheery holly berries and ringed with gold. Not a Garfield, Smurf or Hamburgler in sight.

I don’t really remember the promotional specifics, but I do remember that Mom saw the ad on television and decided we needed to eat our way to a full set.

As my dad would later say, “Challenge accepted, honey.”

For about two weeks that Christmas season, our family dined on Arby’s roast beef sandwiches. Really it wasn’t that bad. Dad got his Jamocha shake and roast beef fix and Mom got her glasses. We weren’t eating fast food to be lazy, we were eating it for a purpose! And so, sandwich by sandwich, she got a full set of 12 and some spares.

We thought that would be it, but then the next year, Arby’s craftily brought out a new design. This time, it was a stemmed water glass.

Well, you can’t just stop at one set of glasses. What if you want to entertain and put out a full tablescape? It was only logical to get these matching glasses, she argued.

So again, our family dined ala Arby’s for about a month until Mom got her set. That second year was a little more of a struggle, but Dad powered through for her sake. However, toward the end of the promotion even he was starting to see roast beef sandwiches in his nightmares. And yes, it is possible to never want to see another fried potato cake again. That was going to be the end of that, or so he thought.

On year three, when they rolled out the Irish coffee glasses, and Mom wound up to plead her case, Dad finally got the bright idea to ask if you could just write Arby’s a check for a case of glasses. Luckily the manager at our local Arby’s was a smart fella and so Dad made both himself and Mom happy that year.

And that’s how Mom’s special holiday glasses came to be a family tradition.

Funny thing is, even though they started out as cheesy promotional items from a fast food chain, they became treasured Christmas memories. I remember setting the table for Christmas dinner with my grandparents and putting out those glasses at each setting. They served up hot cider and cocoa when neighbors came over for a Christmas sing-a-long. They even were our juice glasses at breakfast before school.

In my memories, those promotional glasses are about as much “Christmas tradition” as the food on the table.

Today, of course, like all good traditions from my youth you can find them on eBay under the “vintage” heading. Last bid I saw was well over the market price in 1980-something.

Wonder if they’d throw in a roast beef sandwich and a Jamocha shake for old time’s sake?

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or [email protected].

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