Three and a half years ago we acquired a china hutch from a family friend. This was exciting because we had been looking for a cabinet that would display the set of dishes from my grandmother that she didn’t have the room to display. We put them in the cabinet, took gorgeous pictures, and she even came over to see it. She was practically giddy to see them out of a box. It made her happy and it made us happy. I remember her saying “they’ve just been in that box for so long.” According to the newspaper inside the box, lovingly wrapped around each piece, it had been sixteen years.
I am pretty confident we haven’t used most of that set since it’s been in the cabinet. It looks pretty and I may have used a piece or two for holidays dinners, but not much. Part of that is likely because we lost my grandmother almost two years ago and it just felt too sad, in a way.
Today I had to pack it back up.
We’re getting new flooring and the china hutch has to be moved. I’m certainly not moving it full of important family dishes, so I lovingly rewrapped them up in newspaper and packed them. That simple act brought out a lot of feelings. Not sadness, because they’re only going to be in boxes for a week (maybe two) while this all gets taken care of. More like … understanding.
For the first time in my life I think I understand why she looked so relieved to see them out of the box. It wasn’t because they’re beautiful up there, which is what I thought at the time. It’s because she thought it meant they would finally be used. Really, wasn’t that the point of buying them in the first place? In their boxes, they’re so sad. Just wrapped up in newspaper that is yellowing more each day, waiting for their intended purpose. I can almost imagine her standing in a store, carefully selecting the print she liked the best. And how do I honor that? I put it right back in a box? What was the point of taking it out of a box for three and a half years if we weren’t going to use it?
I swear I could practically hear her standing behind me asking me who I was saving all these dishes for.
So that’s when I decided something. After this flooring goes in and the dishes are back in their home in the china hutch … I’m using them. I’ll invite people to dinner and actually bring out the good dishes. I’ll pour tea into a cup with a real saucer, just like my Nana liked. I’ll use the pretty platter to serve. Realistically, I won’t do this every day or every meal (because it’s not exactly dishwasher friendly) but I will do it enough to remember using it.
The next time I have to pack it up, I want to have memories of the times we’ve used it.
I get it now, Nana. You were never the kind of person to have items that served no purpose. You were never the lady with three sets of fancy towels that were only for display. You bought what you needed and you used it. That set of dishes didn’t fit into the cabinets at your house anymore and it made you sad to see it go. So, instead, you packed it up and waited for the day when someone else would use it. I should stop letting it sit around collecting dust and start showing it off to the world in the way it was meant to be shown off … with a steaming helping of something delicious.