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Fine China August 21, 2020

My Dad is just now winding up what he is calling his Farewell Tour.

“Yeah, yeah.” said my son.  “Cher had five of those.”

He is making an up and down road trip of the east coast, visiting friends and relatives he hasn’t seen in years.  When he gets home, he may never leave again.  “If you want to see me,” he says, “You’ll have to come see me.  I’m done travelling.” 

We were the first stop on his trip, where he unloaded his wedding china and crystal, among other things.  My mother passed away in April, and since then my father has been cleaning out his house of everything he doesn’t use, which is more or less everything.  He even brought us a can of beets.  When he’s done with this project, he will have a bottle of mustard, a jar of mayo, a roll of toilet paper, and a towel.  That’s it.  He’s a simple guy with simple needs.  My mother would pick through other people’s trash for things that might possibly be still useful.  She liked stuff.  Dad?  Not so much.

Mom didn’t necessarily use all the stuff she had.  Her china[1] is a gorgeous set of Wedgwood Florentine Black, complete with ashtrays for each place setting, as every hostess in the ‘60s had, and a cigarette case. 

fine china
Yes, the set came with a cigarette case AND a cigarette holder, but not a gravy boat.

Her crystal is service for 12 – wine glasses and cordial glasses, hand blown and hand etched lead crystal, despite the fact that between both of my parents over the 50 years that I’ve known them, including wedding toasts, might have drunk a combined total of a glass and a half of wine.

We took box after box out of the back of Dad’s car and piled it on my kitchen counter, unsure of where their permanent home in my house would be.  I opened the boxes to take inventory and saw that many of the plates and glasses were enshrined in their original plastic and tissue paper.  “I feel like these are Star Wars toys in their original packaging.  Does this make them worth more?”

I washed five place settings and set the table, including five settings of Mom’s Oneida silver that I never once remember her using.  The wine glasses were somewhat yellowed with a half-century of nicotine stained air that had seeped through the cardboard, but dish soap got rid of the film pretty easily.

fine china
This might be the first time in decades the gang was all back together.

I served chicken and green beans on pristine bone china and served Coca-Cola in vintage lead crystal glasses.

As we cleaned up, my daughter asked, “Does this go in the dishwasher?”

“No,” I snapped.  “You do not put a fifty-dollar fork in the dishwasher.”  My father rolled his eyes.  That eyeroll said so many things.  It said, this is why this stuff is useless.  Who wants a fork you can’t put in the dishwasher?  Who wants dishes you have to be delicate with?  Who wants cups you have to refill every three sips? 

I put a never-before used teacup with gold-leaf trim and black dragons painted around the perimeter under the Keurig to make myself a cup of decaf.  As I took a sip, trying desperately not to spill it because the cup was slightly too small for the volume of liquid, Dad asked, “Does it taste better out of that cup?”

The coffee did taste better out of a fancy cup, but not so much better that I felt like I needed a cigarette with a fancy ashtray.

“It does,” I said, meaning it.  It did.  I pictured my 23-year old mother in the fine china department of Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s picking out the pattern, dreaming of Thanksgivings and sophisticated dinner parties that would never happen. I got mad at the memory of my 75-year old mother drinking coffee out of a mug she filched from the casino she frequented before she died because the good china stayed wrapped up, moving with her inside the original boxes to five different states.  What exactly was she saving it for?  If she had thrown it off the roof and used it as skeet it would have done her exactly as much good.  Maybe more, because then she would have had some fun with it.

I can’t ask her now why she never used it, but I think if I could she’d say it was too good to use.  Too fancy.  I’d hate to think that my dishes out-classed me.[2] Fine china is nothing but washed and pressed and baked mud with some paint on it.  Glass is nothing but hot, melted sand.  I pledge to use it.  Not every day, but when I’m feeling fancy or missing my Mom.  On holidays.  When friends come over.  I will create memories with them, and probably a few chips and cracks.  But that’s ok.  Life has chips and cracks in it, too.  That’s what makes it interesting.  That’s what makes it fine.


[1] Yes, technically it was my parents’ china, collectively, but let’s be real.  My dad needs one plate, or perhaps one pack of paper plates, and he gives zero craps what it looks like. 

[2] Or that the cups out-glassed me.  HAHAHAHAHA.  I do love a good pun.

If you enjoyed this and want to read more like it, visit Lori on Twitter or on Facebook or read her award winning books.  Her newest book, a Foreword INDIES Gold Medal award winner, “If You Did What I Asked In The First Place” is currently available by clicking here.

Fine China

9 Comments

  1. Charolene Miller

    Lori this is so true life back in the back in the 50 and 60 is so different from today I know that I use to get out my good China and set the table with it so the kids would know how to eat at a proper set table. Good writing

    Reply

  2. Mari-Ann Wise

    We ended up with my mother-in-law’s beautiful Lenox china. I already had a fancy set that I bought at a resale shop that I truly loved but out of a sense of obligation to my husband, packed it away and set hers up in the china cabinet. It wasn’t long before I realized that (a) I don’t entertain like that anymore and (b) if I did, I would want it to be on my beloved packed away dishes. Fortunately, my sister-in-law had the same Lenox china pattern and has a bunch of grandchildren who get a real bang out of “fancy holidays” so we took a road trip and dropped them off. They stayed in the family and it turns out my husband didn’t care about those dishes at all. Happy ending!

    Reply

    • Lori Duff

      It’s weird how personal those things are. I’m so glad your mother-in-law’s china found a happy home and yours is being loved again.

      Reply

      • Mari-Ann Wise

        Thanks, Lori! If it had been your mom’s pattern, I would have kept them! So much for sentimentality.

        Reply

  3. Marlene R Buchanan

    This story really touched me. Mama’s fine china is in her china cabinet in the dining room. I walk by and her crystal sings out “wash me.” I try not to walk that way too often. Guilt is a strong emotion. I didn’t know your mom had passed away. I am so sorry. I knew she was in bad health health but I didn’t realize her time had come. I miss you

    Reply

    • Lori Duff

      Thanks. I miss you, too. It’s been quite a spring/summer…and I prefer talking about things that make me laugh.

      Reply

  4. Sharry Weiss

    When my step-father remarried and was packing up to leave the home I grew up in, I wanted my mother’s china. I remember when she bought it. She bought two sets, one for my sister-in-law and one for herself and put them both on layaway at a china store. She loved her china and we used it for all family dinners like Rosh Hashashana, Yom Kippur, Good Friday (a very long story), etc. He told me I couldn’t have it. He was taking it with him. Her china was beautiful. Use your mother’s china in good health. (and Happy New Year)

    Reply

    • Lori Duff

      Thank you! You should be happy to know that we did, in fact, use it for Rosh Hashonah this year. I’m sorry you didn’t get to keep your mother’s china and all the memories carried within those dishes. Happy new year to you!

      Reply

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Fine China

9 Comments

  1. Charolene Miller

    Lori this is so true life back in the back in the 50 and 60 is so different from today I know that I use to get out my good China and set the table with it so the kids would know how to eat at a proper set table. Good writing

    Reply

  2. Mari-Ann Wise

    We ended up with my mother-in-law’s beautiful Lenox china. I already had a fancy set that I bought at a resale shop that I truly loved but out of a sense of obligation to my husband, packed it away and set hers up in the china cabinet. It wasn’t long before I realized that (a) I don’t entertain like that anymore and (b) if I did, I would want it to be on my beloved packed away dishes. Fortunately, my sister-in-law had the same Lenox china pattern and has a bunch of grandchildren who get a real bang out of “fancy holidays” so we took a road trip and dropped them off. They stayed in the family and it turns out my husband didn’t care about those dishes at all. Happy ending!

    Reply

    • Lori Duff

      It’s weird how personal those things are. I’m so glad your mother-in-law’s china found a happy home and yours is being loved again.

      Reply

      • Mari-Ann Wise

        Thanks, Lori! If it had been your mom’s pattern, I would have kept them! So much for sentimentality.

        Reply

  3. Marlene R Buchanan

    This story really touched me. Mama’s fine china is in her china cabinet in the dining room. I walk by and her crystal sings out “wash me.” I try not to walk that way too often. Guilt is a strong emotion. I didn’t know your mom had passed away. I am so sorry. I knew she was in bad health health but I didn’t realize her time had come. I miss you

    Reply

    • Lori Duff

      Thanks. I miss you, too. It’s been quite a spring/summer…and I prefer talking about things that make me laugh.

      Reply

  4. Sharry Weiss

    When my step-father remarried and was packing up to leave the home I grew up in, I wanted my mother’s china. I remember when she bought it. She bought two sets, one for my sister-in-law and one for herself and put them both on layaway at a china store. She loved her china and we used it for all family dinners like Rosh Hashashana, Yom Kippur, Good Friday (a very long story), etc. He told me I couldn’t have it. He was taking it with him. Her china was beautiful. Use your mother’s china in good health. (and Happy New Year)

    Reply

    • Lori Duff

      Thank you! You should be happy to know that we did, in fact, use it for Rosh Hashonah this year. I’m sorry you didn’t get to keep your mother’s china and all the memories carried within those dishes. Happy new year to you!

      Reply

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Lori Duff

Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side.  Her latest book, "If You Did What I Asked in the First Place" was a number one Amazon Hot New Release in the Fall of 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.

Fine China August 21, 2020

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