The finer things in life


When I was in the fifth grade, my school changed from having a long Easter weekend to a real spring break. One whole week of freedom. Of course, it was called Easter break, but admittedly, that was a long time ago...
My Mom had other plans for my week off. It was called "spring cleaning." This all invasive ritual had been something she had previously keep all to herself, but Mom was always teaching me, and this year she taught me she knew how to share.
As I was cleaning out the kitchen cabinets, in order to wash the shelves, put in new shelf paper, and then stack everything back onto the shelves, I came across some dinnerware that I had never seen. Way up on the highest shelf; I started removing it and stacking it on the table. To my 9 year old eyes, it was the most beautiful thing in the world, small blue and yellow flowers with a platinum ring around the edge. It looked very delicate and young as I was, even I thought it must have cost a fortune. Mom came into the kitchen, and I asked her about this wonder of wonders. After she gasped a bit, and admonished me to be oh so very careful with it, she told me it was the good china. This was the dinnerware set she and my father had received as wedding presents, many people purchasing a placeware set apiece, to make up the whole service for eight.
I asked her why we weren't using it, and she said it was for "special" occasions only. It was too good for everyday use. My brain started working and I asked her "Do you mean like Thanksgiving?" Yes, she agreed. Well then, can we use it for Thanksgiving dinner? She said we could.
I'm sure she thought I would forget all about it by November, after all this was Spring, but when I was asked to set the Thanksgiving table, I went to get the step stool. She asked why I needed that, and I said I had to reach the top shelf for the good china. No, she said. She had changed her mind, we would use the regular everyday stuff. Well, no one in our household ever questioned or spoke back to a parent, especially right before a Thanksgiving meal. Why risk getting sent to my room without dinner on Thanksgiving? But it gave me a lot for my 9 year old mind to think about, and I decided, probably that very night, that I would never not use my nice things. Sure, as Mom pointed out, they could get broken. But why have something I never use and enjoy?
Fast forward to this April.
I was home sorting kitchen stuff. Making room for my things in my parent's kitchen, figuring out what kitchen items to take to the boat. I came across Mom's good china. What to do with this? It took up shelf space that I needed for my stuff and I had two sets of dinnerware already between my and my Mom's everyday dinnerware. Staring at it, I remembered how it never got used and I decided right there and then to rectify that.
I would take it to the boat. Call me crazy, but here was china that (except for cleaning the cabinets) never saw the outside of the cabinet. Now I would take it to see the world.
Would it get broken? Maybe not, with a little care and planning, I should be able to keep it safe. And it would be USED. If I didn't do this, one of my children would someday be staring at this same china wondering where on earth this china had come from, who did it belong to. Would they put it away for their children to come across and tuck away? How many generations would not use this china before it turned to dust?
As I was pouring through the multitude of treasures in the kitchen, I happened upon some plastic baggies with paper towels wrapped around some items inside. Opening these, I discovered a full service for 12 of good Oneida stainless flatware. I remembered this set, it had belonged to my Grandmother. My Mom had purchased it for her way back in the late fifties with Betty Crocker Coupons. I must have been about seven when she gave it to her. Grandma passed on, and I guess Mom brought the flatware home with her and placed it in these bags for safekeeping. I knew it would be a perfect match for the china. It would go to the boat.
So when I set a table, I'm sure a lot of our cruising friends will see my fine china and flashy flatware and dismiss me as nuts. I mean, most folks have good plastic plates and everyday stainless. They don't break, they don't need babying; it just makes sense.
But every time I set my table, I think of my Grandmother and Mother. I wonder what they would think of my lifestyle and decisions. I silently thank them for making me who I am. I have a piece of both of them with me everyday, and everywhere I roam. I feel like I'm taking them with me, and sharing my life with them. The connection is through hard inanimate objects, but it's a connection of memories. Through them and with them, we are making new memories together.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great writing Martha...brought back memories. I too got my Mom's Onieda flatware she saved and gave them to my daughter who so loved her Grandmother and she uses them for everyday.
Wish I had gottent the china but was between life changes and didn't know where I would have been to keep them safe and use them.
You have the right idea..

Anonymous said...

As always, a pleasure to read what you write. My mom was the same way and now I have that china (that was ONLY used for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners) plus a couple other sets-my own and my grandmothers. I really should use them as well.
Kaye

Pat Cummins said...

Great post. I hope we get to eat off that china someday! My mom did at least use hers for special occasions but those were the only times.

Marc Cote said...

This made my eyes well up with tears. Wnderful story.

S/V Veranda said...

Wow MJ, great read and it really hits home. So did your Mom have any special occasion shot glasses?

You guys still contemplating a trip north?

MJ said...

Thanks everyone!
Anon1- what a great way to pass on the memories and love.
Kaye- yes DO!
Pat- Have been enjoying reading about your trip too. When you get home, we'll have you and Tom for dinner on the Journey.
Marc- I'm glad I was able to connect so well with you, thanks for the comment.
Veranda- Yes, to coming. I'll host a party on Journey on Back Creek when we get there! Shot glasses? I have an incredible worldwide collection, if you are really interseted, we could definitly talk turkey...

Dean and Katie said...

We used my husband's Mom's silver onboard and everyone said we were the only crazy one's they knew that would use real silver. What if we lost pieces? No biggie....the whole set wasn't there. Really enjoyed your story.