All of my good china is stacked on the buffet in the dining room waiting to be put away. If you’re like me, by the time you get the kitchen cleaned up and pull the last load out of the dishwasher on a holiday, the last thing you feel like doing is putting away more dishes. And so it sits there, all shiny and pristine after three decades of being used maybe three times a year for family dinners.
I chose the Noritake pattern as a young woman. It is lovely and sweetly feminine in that way that most dishes in the early 1980’s was considered “pretty” by most young, hopeful, brides. It is pure white, with pastel pink and blue flowers and a thin, silver rim. After the wedding, my dear mother-in-law, a pragmatic Polish woman who adamantly believed in finishing what one had started even then, filled out my place settings by buying me a piece of china for every birthday and Christmas until I had enough place settings to host a party for twelve people.
As we were cleaning up the kitchen after Thanksgiving, my sister and I talked about our wedding china. How each of us would choose a different pattern now, as older women, and why. My sister and I both have colorful Fiesta Ware for our everyday dishes. She mentioned that every time she opens her cupboards, all the bright, colorful, pottery makes her happy. I feel the same way about mine. Fiesta is solid and sure and nearly indestructible. Kind of like our marriages at this point, I suppose.
I think the women of our mothers’ generation thought we needed “good” dishes because their mothers told them that setting a proper table was part and parcel of what it meant to be a good wife. As brides-to-be, we bought into the myth and registered our patterns at Dayton’s and then sat back and waited for the large brown cartons to arrive in the mail. We unwrapped each dish carefully and for the first ten years of marriage washed each dish by hand instead of shoving everything into the dishwasher, like we do now. I wonder what our daughters’ generation thinks about the need for good china. I think they are far sturdier and more sure of themselves than we were at the same age. They’re less apt to let other women define for them what’s necessary in order to be good at anything, including hosting dinner parties. So, in terms of dishes, time will tell.
All I know for sure is that at this stage of life, I want both the relationships and objects in my life to be sturdy and dependable and not prone to breakage if they’re handled a little too carelessly. Like my sis, I want to be able to open my cupboard every morning and smile.
At this age, anything else just seems like too much work.