As these things go, my grandma’s china came to me. My mom packed it up in boxes and shipped it across the country a long time ago. The first Christmas after it arrived, I carefully cleaned it and set the table for holiday dinner. Later, I told my mom how special it was to use the china, but couldn’t get over how small the plates were. We chuckled about how serving sizes have changed over time.
Just a couple years ago, mom and dad were out for the holidays. I again unpacked the precious china and set the table. My mom glanced up and asked, “Where are the plates?” “What do you mean? This is all I have” came my reply. She couldn’t stop laughing. We were about to eat dinner off of the salad plates. Somehow in the storage and shipping, the dinner plates had been separated from the rest. I knew they seemed awfully small!
This spring the entire set was reunited. The tea cups, saucers, salad plates, bowls, and dinner plates, along with the gravy boat, soup tureen, and various other pieces are safely packed away in my basement. We paid a small fortune (it was a birthday gift from my sister) for their shipping and everything arrived in perfect shape. When the new boxes arrived, I placed them carefully next the others in the basement.
I’ve been thinking about the china lately. I can’t quite remember grandma using it, but she must have. The plates I remember at her house had peach and orange fruit with green leaves around their edges. They were thick and sturdy and we used them all year long. While I remember tagging along while she and grandpa hunted for replacement pieces for her “good china” over the years, I don’t really have any memories of actually using it.
My grandma Zehrung used Corelle dinnerware and if the commercials were correct, you could actually bounce it off the tile floor and it wouldn’t break. I think I may have broken some of those along the way. We didn’t use “good china” there either. I don’t know if she had it stored somewhere safe, but I don’t remember using it even once.
I wonder how many times Grandma’s beautiful china made it out of the box over the years. I think my mom hung it on the wall in one of her houses, but I don’t remember using it very often. Even when I use it now, I get all nervous around it, afraid that it will jump out of my hands and break. To us, this china is precious, rare, and beautiful not because of the actual value but because of the family history. And it is stored in my dusty basement.
When I talked to mom the other day, I told her I was thinking about unpacking it and using it. I wanted to weigh her thoughts on this. It feels like this belongs to all of us, not mine alone. It’s a legacy and I want to use it well. She said that when Grandpa Mac gave grandma the china all those years ago, he probably expected her to use it. I think so too.
So, I am going to take it out of the old boxes and make room for it in my cupboard. We’ll use the “good china” for our ordinary days as well as special celebrations. We will use the salad plates for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and those pretty salad bowls for popcorn. I can envision eating hamburgers, fancy dinners, and leftovers from those large plates. It makes me a bit queasy to imagine the everyday wear and tear, and the possibility of damage or loss. I will probably shed a tear if we lose pieces to careless handling. You can bet, I will demand my people treat it well.
I no longer think there’s time to wait for the good stuff. This messy, complicated, and glorious life is all we get, and I am ready to use it all up. In the days and weeks after my diagnosis, my overwhelming emotion was gratitude. I still can’t believe I get to have this life. It’s not perfect, there are some things I’d change if I could, but it is glorious just as it is. When I thought about the future, I realized, I just wanted more. More quiet evenings at home with Keith, more evenings hanging out with our rowdy kids, more time to get to know the others, more laughter, more honesty, more beauty, more grandbabies, more ordinary days.
On the other side of all of this, I am trying to align my life to this new North. The reality that my simple sweet ordinary life is good, very good. I think it even warrants the good china.
Don’t save something for a special occasion.
Every day of your life is a special occasion.
by Thomas Monson