I certainly think so. I’ve always stated that if I hadn’t majored in English, I would have majored in American History. To that end, I love reading and learning about our country’s history. looking at historical and social trends over the centuries is very interesting. Customs, traditions, and how they’ve come to be is well worth knowing. This allows us to understand how we’ve become who we are.
Up until the past twenty years or so there had been a longstanding tradition for brides to receive china, silver, and perhaps crystal. Brides would register at shops to receive the items they needed and desired. I suppose since our society has morphed into one where many young people cohabit before marriage, the need for household items isn’t so necessary.
There is no longer a desire for silver and china as possessions and I feel sad about that. Not only are the items beautiful, but much of it has been handed down from generation to generation. Because I love history and language, I love the stories that accompany many of these items. Many families worked so hard to complete a set of china and acquired it with great pride.
Now, I’ve been lucky enough to receive my grandmother’s china. She married in 1926. I also have some pieces of her mother’s (my great-grandmother). My grandmother was born in 1888 and her mother in 1865. I treasure these pieces.
When I was deemed trustworthy to care for the china, I was probably 45, I was thrilled to have it and afraid to use it. However, when I hosted the next holiday dinner for my small family both my uncle and my mother grew teary-eyed when talking about all of the family dinners they remembered. That’s how much my grandmother’s things meant to them. They weren’t just looking at dishes and silverware, they were spending time with the memory of their mother. I think this is sweet. And it never failed, each time I used it for a holiday dinner they teared up all over again and told some great stories. I was happy to provide this experience for them.
My grandmother originally had 12 place settings of both her china and silver. Many of the dinner plates were gone and over the years I’ve been able to replace them. Recently I bought 4 coffee cups and saucers. There had been no cups. Though the cups seem ludicrously small, I love them anyway. Last year I had decided to start having small dinner parties in order to use the china. Then the pandemic began. I’m still planning my idea for the future.
I’m dedicated to preserving these items and will try to leave some stories in my will to go with them. I hope I’m able to find someone who will treasure them even half as much as I do. At some point I will probably absorb my mother’s china and silver. Much of her crystal doesn’t survive. While her china pattern is very pretty, I vastly prefer my grandmother’s. But I prefer my mom’s silver pattern to that of my grandmother’s. Still, I’d be loathe to get rid of it. All of the silver is kept under lock and key and is not located in our houses, just in case someone gets ideas.
Here is a fun story from elsewhere within the family. When I was 15, my uncle took me, my mom, and grandmother to the Cape for a week. On the way back we stopped to stay overnight with my Aunt Marge. She was my grandmother’s only sister. As staid and formal as my grandmother was, Aunt Marge was just the opposite. She was full of fun, a little bawdy, and an excellent cook. She could also crochet an afghan faster than you could think about it. This was the mid 1970s. My grandmother was 85, so Marge was 79.
Right before we were to leave, Marge took my mother aside. She was holding a large and beautiful dark-blue Wedgewood pitcher. It seems as though when our people came over to Connecticut in the mid 1800s from Ireland, some of them worked as domestics in large mansions. A favorite practice was for the household help to play poker when the family was not at home. And, you guessed it, many of the winnings were filched from the home. With that, Marge handed over the pitcher to my mother. She said for her to take good care of it as it was earned the hard way. None of us had ever heard that story, including my grandmother. But she had moved away when she was married and may not have been privy to all of the family secrets. I have no reason not to believe my Aunt Marge and I’ve since heard some similar stories from other families.
It makes me sad that young people don’t seem to care for the past and the items related to such. I just hope it’s something they don’t come to regret. As for me, I love having those items around. It’s like a part of my family is still with me.