Don’t wait to enjoy the china.

Growing up in the seventies, my mother had a large china cabinet in the dining room of our house, filled with fine china, I think by the name of Royal something.

The massive buffet and hutch was the caretaker of all things rarely used but apparently required, I suspect on the demands of such magazines like Good Housekeeping,  or Woman’s Day, both of which were regulars in our house. I think those magazines were my mom’s escape from the demands of living in Cariboo country and I never did get the point of investing so much time and effort into having all this china, only to have it sit in the cabinet 98% of the year. My family hunted, fished, grew our own food and hauled wood to keep us warm in winter. Why we needed china, I don’t know.

My mom said that one day it would be all mine and quite appalled at the thought as a teen, I declined. I just didn’t get it, or the importance of it to her at the time.

To this day, I still use the same set of dishes for eating regardless of occasion. The first piece of china I’ve ever owned just came to me recently as a parting gift at a neighbours 76th birthday in the form of a stunning tea-cup with royal blue designs. I don’t have matching serving platters and gravy boats, and what you’ll see in this house is a hodge podge of eclectic items from the thrift store and things bought on end of season discount from the grocery store.

And I’m quite happy about this,much to the amusement of some female friends who are decorating mavens. It works, it’s still very beautiful and I like it. But let me tell you why.

While waiting at the doctors years ago, flipping through a magazine, I came across a story that struck home for me completely. If memory serves me correctly, it was written by a woman whose mother was diagnosed with cancer, who went on to pass quite quickly.

Sadly,nearing the end of her life, she voiced regrets to her daughter that she had never let anyone use the china set she had collected for so many years. Fearing something would happen to it, she had steadfastly refused to use it for any event, preferring to save it for ‘that one special occasion’.

Well,that one very special occasion happened shortly after that conversation, and the china was finally used – at a large gathering of loved ones following her death, to celebrate her life.

The message is clear. Life is precious and unpredictable. Don’t wait to enjoy tomorrow, or next month, or next year, what you can enjoy today. Go ahead, collect fine china… but don’t let it sit in a cabinet unused. If you love it, if it gives you joy to see it, use it- don’t wait.

Funny enough when my parents divorced the all important china cabinet stayed with my dad in the home I grew up in, which tells me it really wasn’t all that important after all.

Now when family dinners are served here, the food generally stays in the kitchen,more often than not in the dish it was cooked in, and you serve yourself. Good luck on finding glasses that actually match. What matters to me is not the fanciness of the occasion, but the people and the feelings we share as we gather round the harvest table. I’ll decorate the table with colourful leaves gathered outside for free and ornamental gourds ( that’s a story in itself this year! ) but what matters is being together, not how pretty the plate we ate off was.

I try to live in the way of giving thanks for the small moments of gratitude that happen daily. Hot coffee and a warm house on a cold morning. Food to eat, a shower with scented body wash-a downright luxury to many. The smell of crisp leaves on a fall morning, to see the sun set and moon rise, how thankful I am to experience this. More than one pair of shoes, healthy family, lovely friends and colleagues. And after breaking my ankle recently, I’ve a whole new appreciation for our medical system and how minor of an issue this really is in comparison to the ailments of others.

In these ways, my life is rich, and I am thankful. Life is made up of the sum of the smaller parts and they add up to show you how very lucky you are, no matter how hard it may seem at times. Because someone, somewhere, would love to have the life you do.

I hope you have a safe, happy, warm long weekend. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

centerpiece

17 thoughts on “Don’t wait to enjoy the china.

  1. I’m trying to remember my Grandmother’s pattern, maybe it was “Country Roses”. Mostly, I remember her country lunches she put out on the the farm, a generous spread of bread and cheese and pickles that would be known as a farmer’s lunch, and there was a tiny china teacup for me. Mom had Petite Point. You are correct, the point is, to use it to make memories.

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    1. Laila

      I can’t remember my mom’s pattern- it had roses too. 🙂 And we ate off it maybe twice a year..lol..

      I’m not sure if I missed something in the importance of have fine china or if this memory was just a bidding of a bygone era…

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  2. Julie

    During WW2. One of my brothers sent my mother a beautiful set of China, from Italy I believe. That set was only used for special occasions, x-mas, thanksgiving and for my sisters weddings and what not. However, in those days, there were your Sunday best dress, only worn on Sundays mind. Back then, our mothers were tradition minded, handed down from their mothers.

    You did your laundry on Monday. Ironed on Tuesday. Baked 20 loaves of bread on Wednesday. Thursdays was the meeting of the Homemakers. They knit sweaters, socks, mitts for the soldiers overseas. On Fridays, you churned butter. Saturdays you wore one of your print dressers to town, to shop for the very few groceries we needed back then. My dad was a farmer. Sunday’s you put on your Sunday best and attended church. Back then, you did not work on the Sabbath. You fed and watered your livestock and milked the cows. And, that was it.

    I would go back to those days, in a heartbeat. There were 9 of us in the family. We all agree, those were the best days of our lives.

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  3. victoria b

    A poignant reminder that china, like the relations that we have with loved ones, become brittle if not used with frequency.

    Although our family heirloom Wedgewood “turkey plates” (circa 1830) and their matching gargantuan platter are used only once a year at Thanksgiving dinner, they need rinsing in warm water throughout the year or else they will break and I will be unable to pass them down to my two daughters and their (future) children. (The two boys have already laid claim to other “heirlooms” which like Laila’s are an amalgam of random collections).

    So take the time; bathe those potentially “brittle” relationships/ pieces of china in warm water once and a while. Does it take a little time and effort? Of course!
    Will it matter down the line? I hope so. I am counting on it.

    I And tomorrow (because we celebrate Thanksgiving on Sunday to allow for “travelling Monday”) when my family bargains over who gets the turkey plate at their setting “this year” (there are only 8 special settings to go around yet there are 12 at the table now), I am thankful that the heirloom plates, like the relationships they symbolize, sustain.

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    1. Laila

      So beautifully said Victoria – thank you for sharing this with us. Clearly a labour of love, and it shows. Your wisdom in comparing the care of fine china to the care of relationships is sage advice for all. Blessings to you and yours on this day of thanks 🙂

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  4. Eliza Olson

    I have cups collected by my mother and a ceramic fruit funnel used by my great grandmother to fill canning jars. I have used the fruit funnel. It has a crack in it now. But these few things of my mother’s carry the weight of great memories like the turkey plates above. I have a set of Royal Albert that was started with the first money I earned as a teacher. More memories. Unmatched glasses and dinnerware can carry the same memories. All the best to you all. We have a lot to be thankful for.

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  5. I have my Mom’s china all wrapped and boxed for my daughter as she wants it. Myself, I use the same method as you, Laila, possibly even more so. Hodge – podge everything. 🙂 My studio is rather like that as well…
    Have a lovely Thanksgiving!

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  6. e.a.f.

    iT Is hard to break good china. How do we think some of it has lasted a couple of hundred years? My position is I’m worth using fine china for every day and that is what I do. Not all can go through the dishwasher, but a lot can. You just can’t use really hot water or the dry cycle. Baking soda is better than commercial dishwasher detergents. One woman told me the secret to keeping very old china in the family, and not breaking it, was to leave it on the dinner table til the next morning. No breakage due to alcohol.

    For some I believe, having the china, even in the cabinet, was to give them something beautiful to look at. Money wasn’t always plentiful, and many women, what they acquired as wedding gifts, was the only really lovely things they were able to acquire until their children were raised. I suspect it got a lot of Moms through some tough times.

    Back in “the day”, when we had the Bank of B.C. it was sold and became the Hong Kong Bank of B.C., they built a new office building downtown. One of the major china companies came over from England and to demonstrate how strong their china was, they built a platform of cups and saucers and then placed a Rolls Royce on it. Try doing that with any dishes you buy today.

    We have a lot to be thankful for in Canada, whether the china matches or not or whether its fine china or what we got from the thrift store or the clearance bin. its what is put on the dishes and how we use them as a group. The discussions we have, the smiles we give each other. Happy Thanksgiving. And as part of this “china” discussion, those who cooked should not have to clean, so all you happy eaters, do the dishes and clean up the kitchen after the turkey feast.

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