Ordinary tea parties deserve fine china
For the past 18 years, the fine china I received on my wedding day has sat idle. Either at the back of a curio cabinet or in a cupboard stored safely gathering dust over time. I still remember that summer of 2002, walking through Lazarus Department store (now Macy's) with my late husband Matthew, both of us with those wedding registry guns zapping all the 'stuff' we needed for our fall date at the altar. Things we thought we needed. Things you think you need at age 25 are never the things you really care about or need 10 or 20 years later, we'd find out.
He and I picked the least gaudy set we could find –a simple, pretty, white china with a feather-looking pattern. It was called 'Nature.' Since we were moving to a farm, we thought it appropriate. We would only use these for "special occasions" I said. For fancy dinners or guests. Not any old day. I think the only time in the 15 years that those white plates graced our dinner table was once, when I tried to cook my new husband a first anniversary dinner of chicken marsala. I'm pretty sure the plates wished they were back in storage after that culinary disaster.
Every time Matthew and I moved houses and then again when I moved after he died two and a half years ago, I've packed up and transported all that china. Each time, I'd look at it with endearment. Each time would take me back to a memory when he and I sat at a little farm table eating burnt chicken– that one time together. As I pack up my house to move once more, this time across the country– for a real new beginning –my true chapter two, I once again started packing up that china.
This time though, I felt differently. I didn't have that same nostalgic endearment for this set of dishes, plates, cups, saucers, platter and matching gravy boat. Instead I felt a twinge of anger and a lot of sadness. Why the hell didn't we use those plates more? Why didn't any of those birthday gatherings with family or parties with friends count as 'special enough' to use those fancy plates? How much more special can you get next to the birth of newborn twins on New Year’s Eve? How much fancier an occasion would we have had to celebrate next to the wedding anniversary in 2011 when we toasted Matthew's clean kidney biopsy results? How extraordinary were all those dinners when four children and their mommy and daddy gathered together around a table– whether it was fighting or laughing, or spilling milk and getting crumbs all over. We never realized that those were the special nights to celebrate. Those were the amazing dinners to be thankful for. The fanciest of times we had were those when a healthy family of six ate bland spaghetti or overcooked pork tenderloin at that table. Those times were all more than worthy of the 'fancy' plates.
The girls saw the china sitting on the table today, ready to get packed in boxes again. One of the twins asked, "Mom can we have a tea party with these fancy dishes?" The old me would have had a heart attack and probably told her "no, those dishes are only for special occasions." But today I said "hell yeah, let's have a tea party with these!"
So the girls put on dresses and we poured apple juice from the gravy boat thingie into the pretty white coffee cups and we raised our pinky fingers as we sipped. We put chocolate chip cookies on the matching saucers and we faked English accents as we toasted this beautiful, ordinary but fancy rainy quarantine afternoon. The occasion was fancy and special and quite important. Afterwards, I took out all our everyday dishes and packed them up to give away. I moved the fancy fine china in its place. From here on out, we eat on fancy plates. Because every day is important. Every day is special. Every day is worthy of the good shit.
This post was originally published May 1, 2020 here at Filter Free Parents.