A Story about Dishes

Chapter One:  The Accident

When Hubby was about two years old, the story goes, he was running around the dinner table in the family farmhouse which his mother had just set with her best china.  In a split second when she looked away, he lost his balance, grabbed hold of the tablecloth, and fell.  As he fell, he pulled the tablecloth and the dishes off of the table.   He wasn’t hurt, but most of the dishes were broken.  

The dishes had been a lovely set of ivory china with tiny flowers and a slim gold band around the edge that Hubby’s Mom and Dad had received as a wedding gift. 

I can’t imagine how upset Mom must have been, but because she was such a had-her-priorities-straight lady, I’m sure her disappointment was secondary to her thankfulness that her toddler wasn’t hurt.

Chapter Two:  We Receive A Single Piece of China 

It shows the special sentiment Mom attached to that set of china that she carefully wrapped and stored away the few pieces that were unbroken.  After she was gone, we found the box of five remaining dishes and divided them up among her five children as keepsakes.

Chapter Three:  Our Single Piece of China Moves “Home”

Fast forward from “the accident” approximately forty years to when Hubby’s Mom and Dad had passed away and Hubby and I became the next generation to live in the family farmhouse.

We already had an old oak dining room set that fit the farmhouse dining room perfectly in size as well as style, but the wall above the buffet looked bare — with the high ceilings, there was lots of unadorned wall up there. 

So, Hubby, who, when he has the time and inclination, is a great woodworker, made a plate rack to hang on the wall above the buffet (doing an amazing job of copyng a picture of one I found in a magazine).  The plate rack looked perfect there, but I didn’t own a pretty matching set of china plates to display on it (it held eight — four each on two shelves).  So, I just displayed a variety of old plates I had collected, which included our “keepsake” plate from Mom’s china.

Chapter Four:  A Memorial Day Cook Out 

After my Daddy died, Mama moved to some senior apartments just a couple miles from where we now lived on Hubby’s family farm.  She was very happy there and not only made some new friends, but several of her old friends had moved there too.

One Memorial Day, Hubby and I didn’t have any plans, so we invited Mama and her friends over for a cook-out.

One of Mama’s new friends was Opal who lived in the apartment across from her.  Opal was a lovely lady who was a widow and didn’t have any children.  She and Mama had become fast friends who watched out for each other.  (The time Mama had a stroke, Opal was the one who called for help as soon as she didn’t get a response at Mama’s door, saving Mama’s life.)

We ate our cook-out food in the dining room.  When having a cook-out for elderly people, eating outdoors, where it’s “buggy” and hot and the ground is uneven, isn’t the best idea, so we made our little get-together a “half cook-out.”  We cooked out — but we ate in. 

Chapter Five:  Our Single Piece of China Gets Noticed

So, while we were eating in the dining room, Opal pointed to our special plate on the plate rack and asked if that was part of a set.  I told her it wasn’t and related the old story about what had happened to the rest of the set. 

Opal said, “Well, I have a set of china stored away that are very similar to that plate and I don’t plan on ever using them again, so I’ll give them to you, if you’d like to have them.”  I was stunned.  I had always admired that plate and invisioned how lovely the whole set must have been.  Now, here was a lady I barely knew offering us a similar set of the 50 year old china!  

Hubby and I verbally tripped all over each other saying versions of, “Oh, no.  We couldn’t possibly let you give them to us . . .”   But Opal was insistent.  She told Hubby to come over to pick them up sometime next week.

After everyone left and we had time to talk about Opal’s offer, we decided that when she had time to think about it she might regret her impulsive offer so we would just not say any more about it, guessing that she might not mention it again either.

We were wrong.  She called a few days later and asked when Hubby was coming to pick up the china.  So, Hubby went to get them. 

It felt like a mini-Christmas morning when Hubby returned with the gift.  So much fun to unwrap each piece.   It was actually twelve complete place settings that were almost exactly like our “keepsake.”   They were in perfect condition.  And Opal wasn’t done giving — she called a few days later and told Hubby to come over again and pick up a box of serving pieces that she had forgotten she had.  What a wonderful, unexpected gift the whole set was!

Chapter Six:  A Gift Enjoyed

Over the next few years, Opal became a family friend and visited our home often.  And she always told us when she visited how much she enjoyed seeing her china used and treasured.  Opal died a few years later, but I always remembered her when I looked at that china.  

For our almost 20 years in the farmhouse we proudly displayed and loved using Opal’s china and I always enjoyed telling the sad-turned-to-glad story of both the sets of china that had “lived” in that home.

Chapter Seven:  The Gift Passes to a New Generation

When we moved from the farmhouse to a smaller house a few years ago, we were no longer going to have room for our large, many-pieces old dining room set that had been “home” for Opal’s china, so we also weren’t sure what to do with the china.  

Our solution was that we asked DD, who had always loved the china, if she would like to have it.  The timing was perfect.  DD and her family had just moved into a large home with a formal dining room and she had a beautiful, new dining room set– with an EMPTY china cabinet.  She gladly accepted, and left me a voice mail not too long after she received it that I wish I had saved.  She said the china was one of the best gifts she had ever received — not only because they were lovely and looked perfect in her china cabinet, but also because she had fond memories of our friend, Opal.  

I know Opal would be delighted that the old china that she loved but no longer had a use for, is still being used, displayed and cherished by yet another generation. 

And, I know Hubby’s Mom would be delighted that a set of china like the ones she loved and lost, are still a keepsake in our family.

6 Responses to A Story about Dishes

  1. Hilary says:

    That’s SUCH a wonderful story! I love how your mother-in-law saved 5 piece – one for each of her offspring, and how the story evolved from there. You returned Opal’s kindness by paying it forward. How lovely all around. No doubt that china will be passed along just as lovingly one day.. perhaps for several generations to come. Beautiful!

  2. Sandra says:

    Thank you, Hilary. I love your idea that it may be passed on for several generations. Wouldn’t that be great.

  3. anymommy says:

    I love this story! I think it’s so meaningful and special when things get infused with this kind of meaning. They truly become treasures.

  4. Sandra says:

    Thank you, anymommy. It is a story that, obviously, very personally touches my heart, so it feels very good for others, like you, to be touched by it too.

  5. Linda says:

    This story needs to be printed out and kept with the china for those future generations to whom it may pass. The knowledge of its history will make its ownership that much more meaningful. Great post.

  6. Sandra says:

    That is a GREAT idea, Linda. Thank you for suggesting it.

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