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Use the good dishes

I’ve participated in a few family relocations: my own and my parents’. With each move, there have always been a few boxes never fully unpacked. The contents may have made a brief outing from their tissue paper beds but were quickly stored in the original wrappings for the ever-elusive “good.”

Some items were attached to memories of my parents’ military days, the Danish coffee table, a set of French china or the English silver. Each rewrapped item came with stories attached to its arrival as part of our everyday decor. Other items were handed down from family, like my grandmother’s monogrammed Irish linen making its United States debut or the numerous hand-crocheted doilies. Some things were deemed too precious to use while others were just kept out of respect for the previous owner. The question is always, if it’s too precious to use, why have it? 

After a while, we begin to tire of the moves and storage. We opened up the boxes and brought out the tablecloths saved from generation to generation. Most of them were so fragile they turned into a puddle of string. 

When my children were younger, they were fooling around at the kitchen table. I had just filled a Waterford crystal candy dish that I had gotten while on a factory tour with family. As I reprimanded the children for not being careful, I picked up the dish and promptly dropped it, shattering it into a thousand glass shards. The candy dish was only used at Christmas, but the story of how it was broken is used year-round. 

I’m not sure how much joy my grandmother’s monogrammed napkins gave her, but if it is any consolation, I think of her every time I need a cleaning rag. In my experience, unless you are equipped with mad museum archival skills, all precious belongings eventually dissolve into dust.

I’m not saving anything “for good.” If my children inherit anything, it will be memories — I hope some good ones. Every one of us has broken, nicked or cracked something. It may not add to the value of an antique, but it certainly adds to the value of the story. I guess this is my long-winded way around saying, enjoy yourself, your belongings and the people surrounding you. Perhaps we can have nice things and use them, too. 

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