What are you saving? Keeping in that drawer, or cabinet, or closet for the right moment?
I was brought up at a time when parents taught their children that there were play clothes and party clothes, school clothes and just-sitting-around-in-the-house clothes. We had stainless flatware and silverware, everyday dishes and good china, heavy-duty glasses and crystal; and in every case, the latter was reserved for special occasions.
Recently, I read an article advising people of my generation to re-evaluate our treasures, their necessity in our lives, because our children will be overburdened by the task of disposing of them when we die. Pleasant thought…no? According to this expert, our kids don’t want our finery—the silver, china, and crystal. Nor do they want the carved and beautifully made antiques we hunted for and prized. Those things don’t fit their light-speed lifestyles. They’re too delicate, require too much care.
And I find this terribly sad.
But I also think my generation is responsible.
We made our kids—because our parents made us—think about these things as too good or fragile for daily use. We passed on the belief that the things we valued were not serviceable, and that the damage to, or loss of any of them was a tragedy.
And that is so wrong-headed.
Sterling should be used every day, at every meal. My mother-in-law did that, and as a result, her silver never tarnished. Its patina, like its design, grew warmer with use, the love of being used. And fine bone china should also be put to service. It wasn’t meant to lay hidden in a credenza, or gather dust on cabinet shelves. It was meant to be eaten off of, enjoyed.
Likewise with crystal stemware. If you can afford to have it, it should be filled with wine or water or juice or soda, and every drop that comes from it should be savored.
I understand we all have different tastes. And I also understand that antiques need care, sometimes repair and refinishing. But eventually, so will every piece of furniture. It all wears. A new bureau or table may look simple and fresh when delivered, but eventually its veneer will wear. Its joints will dry, its surfaces will stain, and its hinges will fail.
And that good clothing we were conditioned to save for special occasions? That elegant dinner out? Night at the opera? New Year’s Eve party? By the time those occasions arise the clothing may not fit, or moths may have had a good meal out of it.
Nothing lasts forever.
So, for anyone who’s reading this and thinking their parents’ treasures are too much trouble because they can’t be used all the time, remember: that’s just plain wrong. And your parents were wrong for making you feel that way. All of those things were meant to be used. So use them. And when you do, remember who used them before you, especially if they passed through many generations. And when those things break or fall apart, if they can’t be fixed, then be sad and say “Goodbye,” and think about how much joy they gave you.
Loss is part of life.
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