My Mother passed away in July 29, 2018 and Daddy left us June 1, 2020. They left the family home to my little brother, Kevin. As Kevin, my sister Amy, and I were engaged in the awful chore of going through my parents personal effects and household items, Kevin asked, “Do either of you want Mom’s china.” There was a pause. My initial internal reaction was “Yes!” But in this raw state, if he’d asked me if I wanted Daddy’s toothbrush I would have said the same thing. Certainly everything my parents owned was of high value. Why? Simply because it was once theirs.
In my pause, as I looked at the beautiful shiny plates with the delicate yellow flowers, I felt dread and regret. I thought, “Where would I put it?” My own unused 10 place settings with the sterling silver trim, matching serving bowls, platter, cream pot, and sugar bowl are taking up all of the space in my buffet. Charles’ unused Frankoma pottery fills the china cabinet.
I rationalized. I could put my china in the cedar chest and then Mom’s china in the buffet. To what end? So one day my own children would be standing in my home, trying to decide which of them gets my china and which of them gets my mother’s? Meanwhile, both of their spouses have likely inherited china from their mothers. Will civilization end when the world’s couples run out of room for generation after generation of “good dishes?”
The look on Amy’s face was one of regret and dread, as well. We considered the china, standing there in the china cabinet as it had been for the last 45 years. I remember when it was purchased. I remember how much Mom loved it. I remember it being admired by everyone who entered our home. Do you know what I DON’T remember? I don’t remember having ever eaten on it. Not ever. Not for family dinners, not for holidays. Nothing special enough ever happened to make Mom get out the good dishes. The china is pristine. As far as any of us could remember it has never been touched by a morsel of food.
What a shame.
But the same is true of my own china. Like Mom’s china, my dishes were not wedding gifts. She was around 20 years old, when she and Daddy got married in my aunt and uncle’s living room. I married at 19, with a child already on the way, in the basement of a minister who advertised his services in the classified ads. There wasn’t much time for registering china patterns, not that such a thing would have occurred to either of us. Both of us got our good dishes long after our households were set up and the necessities of life were secured.
I was always saving my good china for some undefined, random special occasion. I’ve had this china for 30 some years, and for awhile I think I may have even forgotten I had it. It is kind of sad to think that nothing special enough to eat on the good dishes happened in 30 years. Not one thing? My friends and family should be offended.
After some thought, and back and forth looks, we decided that the china cabinet and Mom’s china should stay in the house. Kevin agreed that he would host future family dinners and that being the case, the dishes should stay right where they were. It was not stated, but we all understood that the dishes would stay right where they were. Looked at, admired, but not eaten on.
Oddly, today, two months after losing Daddy, I awoke with a determination not unlike New Years Day. I declared to Charles that there was a new me in the house. I wasn’t sure at the time what that meant, but I needed to make some changes.
And I did.
Tonight at dinner, Charles and I ate on my good dishes. We had pork chops and macaroni and cheese on fine bone china with sterling silver trim. What was the special occasion? We are the special occasion. I tried a new pork chop recipe. We survived the death of both my parents. We survived Covid another month. We survived working from home together for four months. We survived his ladder accident. We survived remodeling protects. After 8 years, we still love each other. He makes me laugh more than anyone can. He is still the person I want to go through time with. What is more special than that?
After dinner, I decided to move all 10 place settings to the kitchen cabinets where they will be used daily. Meanwhile, the chipped every day dinner plates with mismatched dessert plates and saucers are going to a thrift store.
You may be thinking “But using them every day increases the chances that they will get broken.” Yes, that is true. So what? Every day we live is a special occasion. I’m going to eat on the good dishes. You should join me.
It seems crazy that we save nice things for special occasions that never come, and then pass them on to our children to repeat the cycle. My hope is that one day, the only thing my children will have to go through when I am gone is pictures.
P.S., Charles doesn’t realize this, but once the good china has been used up and broken, I’m going after the Frankoma.