Upon my mother passing away and my dad moving out of the house they had shared, I inherited a lot of stuff. When I mean a lot of stuff, I mean A LOT of stuff. As I went through the boxes, I unpacked five, count them five full sets of china, 12 settings of multiple styles of glassware and multiple tea services. My initial reaction: UGH!
Mary Jane, was nothing if not methodical in her ability to make sure there were enough place settings to serve a small army. It would be a good thing to mention at this point that my dad was a career naval officer and my mother did A LOT of entertaining as I grew up. This entertaining happened during a time when formal china was definitely a thing and multiple tea services were needed. So, her reasoning and need for all these dishes had some realistic life uses.
So many dishes!
Mary Jane had a knack for hunting out the dish bargains wherever she traveled. In addition to the formal china from her wedding, she had her mother’s china (my grandmother), her grandmother’s china and a full set of Christmas Spode. She had collected 12 place settings of pretty much of every style of Lismore Waterford as well.
On a trip to East Berlin in the late 80s, she had also acquired a full set of blue and white china from the German Democratic Republic (a cool thing to have stamped on the bottom, now that the Wall has fallen). My father loves to tell the story of carting boxes of dishes back through Checkpoint Charlie and onto the train back to Stuttgart, where they lived at the time. He had also been convinced to load two suitcases full of blue and white Lomonosov China from St. Petersburg when they traveled to Russia. My father dutifully obliged, being the amazing husband he was!
So many memories of my mother…
As the paper fell away and I slowly placed each piece of china, silver and glassware on the shelf, I was flooded with memories. Memories of Thanksgiving turkeys served on the platter and Christmas roast on the Spode. I could smell my mother’s delicious chocolate birthday cakes on the cake plate. These dishes brought my mother back in waves of images and familiar smells.
While it was comforting in some ways, it was terribly sad in others. I could picture her setting out the table for Christmas Eve the day before and covering the settings with a sheet to keep the dust off. In her mind, the table needed to be set early so she could concentrate on preparing the meal the next day. I could see her standing at the sink handwashing the china so it would not be damaged in the dishwasher. She was there with me again, telling me not to put too much milk in the mashed potatoes or they would be too mushy.
As each piece was unpacked, I placed them on the shelves and in the cabinet. And there they sat. And sat. And sat.
Then one day, when dusting them for what seemed the millionth time, a realization came over me. Why are these items sitting here, gathering dust behind glass, when I could be using them? The Waterford was always saved for special occasions. The china only came out on holidays or special celebrations.
Use the Waterford and the china!
The special occasions are different now. Celebrations are no less celebratory or joyous, but they are so much more casual now. The china sits and sits and never comes out. I found myself hit with a big question…..why am I not using these things? Because I’m afraid of breaking them? Because it was ingrained in my head they were only for “special occasions”?
Well, this is nonsense. The decision was made to use the Waterford and the china. If I break a piece of Waterford, it will not be the end of the world. If the china gets a crack, my life will not be ruined. My mother might be rolling her eyes at me from heaven – but she is with me each time I pour a cup of tea in the Russian china, drink a ginger ale in the Waterford or enjoy a bagel on her grandmother’s china. It makes me happy. And if I break one, then so be it – my mom had 12 place settings of everything!
Take Z Challenge: Get out those “good” dishes out and use them! Take a picture and tag #adventuresofazgirl