Fine China

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.  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.

Yep, that’s an ashtray.

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?”

The set came with a cigarette case and a cigarette holder, but no gravy boat. Priorities.

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.

This was probably the first time in decades that 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?”

“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 at her website, www.loriduffwrites.com, on Twitter, or on Facebook.   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.

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