32 pieces total and a lot of laughter

I chose to keep my mother entertained this weekend by keeping her busy. The original plans for Saturday consisted of Kat and I taking Mom out to Boaz so that she could do some shopping at Boaz' outlet stores.

In characteristic Amy style, though, things quickly got out of hand. I expected her to be shopping for clothes, but quickly noticed her lack of interest. When she didn't seem particularly interested in the offerings of Petite Sophisticate, her longtime favorite clothing store, I knew something was up.A woman my mother knows recently decided to sell off a significant portion of the clothing she owns. My mother tactfully described her financial situation in this manner: "She and her husband are the kind of people who, when they go on trips, don't pack clothing—they purchase new clothing when they get to where they're going."

She detailed what she found at the sale—clothes with tags still on them being sold for under $5 apiece. Mom apparently made a killing; thus, even the cheap prices at good outlet stores weren't enough to tempt her.

We continued to walk, and I spotted the Oneida store. A small light bulb went off in my brain—wasn't my flatware Oneida?—and we ducked inside, to be immediately greeted by one of the store workers, detailing the massive sale they were currently having. 25% off on virtually everything in the store, she said, as I glimpsed around and spied the flatware in the back.

But, on my way, something caught my eye. Several large bins were sitting by the corner of the store. I got closer, and they were what I thought they were—large bins of flatware, separated by type. A moment's digging told me what I expected—these were extras and overruns of virtually every pattern that Oneida made. At prices ranging from 38¢ to 74¢ per piece, I would have been crazy not to at least look for my pattern.

But what was it? I could picture it—the buffed shine, the smooth tulip-petal decorative sculpture of the ends of the flatware—but I could not remember its name to save my soul.

So I dug—and found a spoon. Kat was standing over the bin of dinner knives, my mother over the two bins of forks, and we began to dig. Soon I was arm-deep in random, strange, mismatched spoons, occasionally plucking out one that matched my pattern.

We began to run out of room as we sorted through the flatware. The saleswoman came by and said, "Do you need extra bins to help you sort through everything?" We laughed and agreed that we did, and she asked to see what pattern we were searching for.

"I don't remember the name of it," I said, "and I haven't seen it in stores in a couple of years."

She looked at it momentarily. "Oh, that's Artesia!"

Bien sûr! Armed with a name, we continued. Kat found knives, I found plenty of spoons, but my mother only found one fork. We found serving spoons and forks as well. I have never felt quite so silly as I did while rooting through a bin of spoons and hauling them from bin to bin, with about thirty clutched in each hand.

We dug through everything—to the consternation yet eventual appreciation of a pair of onlookers. We found everything we could from those bins, then purchased more expensive (new and perfect) pieces to finish padding our collection of silverware.

The final total: 6 serving forks, 3 serving spoons, 5 place forks, 5 place knives, seven soup spoons and six teaspoons. 32 pieces total and a lot of laughter: $26.22. A typical 20-piece place setting costs around $25.

Any strangeness I felt about rooting around in the leftovers bin to find silverware was taken care of after I ran the pieces through the dishwasher this morning. Already I can't tell which pieces have been in my house for three years and which just arrived yesterday. Either way, it's an amusing story.

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