When I was a young girl in the early 70s both my mother and my father’s mother had beautiful china cabinets, which contained all sorts of memorabilia, crystal, formal dinnerware, champagne flutes, wine glasses and silverware sets. I remember getting my nose as close to the glass as I could to peer at the treasures within. My mother would normally admonish me for getting so close and remind me not to touch, and the only time I had a chance to see the items up close was during the holidays – when she used the fancy dinnerware and serveware sets. Afterward the items were placed in their places of honor and would only come out to be dusted, cleaned or to be used again.
At my grandmother’s house when I peered into her china cabinet there were times when she’d ask me what I was looking at. There were gravy boats and crystal salt and pepper shakers that always caught my attention. She’d tell me a story about how her grandmother had gotten the gravy boat, which was pale yellow with delicate flowers painted on it, or tell me which items were casual dinnerware and which were formal dinnerware.
From the time I was very small, my grandmother would talk to me as she prepared dinner or set the table so when I got old enough I started doing it without too much instruction. But, of course, there were still some things I didn’t know like the importance and meaning of the silverware sets that she used. My grandmother’s silverware was kept in the buffet table in a drawer that was lined with velvet to protect the silverware. She explained to me how each item was used and where it was placed on the table as well as if it should be used with formal dinnerware or casual dinnerware.
As I got older, I began setting formal place settings, folding cloth napkins and placing cutlery in the right places on my own. Even now, as an adult, I still think about those dinnerware sets and how special they are. I have some of them here waiting to be placed in my own “semi off limits” cabinet for my future grandchildren to marvel at and learn the stories behind each piece.