Sunday, January 21, 2007
Over at St. Casserole's place there's a pleasant discussion of caring for and enjoying one's fine sterling flatware. I'm sure most people enjoy and take pride in fine tableware, especially if it has sentimental value, but somehow that feels particularly Southern to me. In the time and place where I grew up, my friends and I were taught about china and silver patterns, along with our female relatives' biased opinions about which we should someday choose for our own. We were taught how to take care of our family's nice tableware, and to this day, seeing a jar of Wright's silver polish reminds me of preparing for Christmas dinner. We were taught "proper table service", and at age twelve or thirteen my cousin and I gave a little tea for her out-of-town cousins (other side of the family) who came to visit, because our mothers wanted to teach us how.
If that sounds like another world, there is an entertaining, and accurate, book by Maryln Schwartz called A Southern Belle Primer, or Why Princess Margaret Will Never Be a Kappa Kappa Gamma, that explains it all, and even includes the Silver Pattern Zodiac. Actually I think it was another world, but growing up that way taught me to give a small party with confidence--no small feat for an introvert--and taught me to respect and care for nice things. (How many times did my mother exhort me to care for her 1936 wedding china, reminding me, "This is pre-war Limoges. The factories were bombed. You can't get this now.")
One of the smartest things I ever did was to marry a man with the same last initial as mine. My new name still matched all of that monogrammed sterling! Every time I get out that sterling, and that china, I think of my parents and my family, remembering years of special dinners and celebrations.
When my aunt Sara Dunn left me her Waterford crystal I was grateful, if a bit melancholy, but I didn't expect to do what I did when I unpacked it: sit on the floor and weep over each piece. I wept remembering her, her good life, who she was, who I am, where we came from.
When his kids were growing up, my paternal grandfather (Sara Dunn's dad) often told them, "Remember who you are." While that primarily meant, "...and behave accordingly," it seems that something as mundane as cherishing the tableware that he and his children used, plays a part in helping me remember who I am.