Borrowed Traditions

Do you ever notice certain traditions and think, “That’s not really my thing?”

That’s how I felt about china sets. My mom didn’t have china, and my relatives who did have sets chose to display them in cabinets that made navigating around the dining room a challenge. Once or twice a year, they’d pull the china out for a special occasion and caution us all to handle the dishes carefully. That seemed like a lot of space, money, and effort for something only used a few times a year.

Flash forward to 2016. I was at a church yard sale (because they’re the best) and a beautiful serving platter caught my eye. There was a matching dinner plate next to it along with a cardboard sign: “Setting for 12 with serving pieces. $35”

The pattern was elegant and the lines of the dishes were simple…just my style. So, my mom and I inquired about the details of the set. Surely, such a vintage set couldn’t be a full setting for 12 and only cost $35?

The lady we asked told us we’d have to speak to the woman who donated the set, and went to fetch her. The woman who donated the set had a hard time making eye contact when she approached. She explained that the set was her grandmother’s and she didn’t want to sell it. I didn’t know what to say except that I’d recently lost my grandmother and I wished she’d been able to pass such a beautiful collection down to me.

The woman hugged me and said that I was the perfect person to own the set. My mom purchased it for my 30th birthday. The collection was missing three teacups and two soup bowls, but otherwise it was a full setting for 12!

I took the set home and stored it in the basement for another year. This fall,

A piece of the newspaper that held the dishes for over 30 years.

I pulled out the boxes because I realized that storing the dishes in newspaper from 1982 wasn’t a great idea. I unwrapped all the pieces, carefully washed them, and purchased replacement teacups and bowls online. Then I ordered some awesome storage boxes* on Amazon to properly store everything.

I never expected to own a set of china, but I couldn’t imagine a cooler way to acquire it. All told, it only cost about $200 to buy the set, the replacement pieces, and the storage containers. The price would have been much higher to purchase and store a new set of comparable quality and quantity. Plus, I have the story of the lady at the yard sale and a responsibility to honor her love for her grandmother. The china was wrapped in newspaper and stored before I was born, but I feel like it was waiting for me. The set has a unique story and so do I. They won’t be my everyday dishes, but I’ll use them more than a few times a year.  Even small things are worth celebrating, and these dishes are meant for those moments.



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