The China Museum

A while back, my dear friend Elena asked me if I had registered for fine china before getting married. After replying that I had, she asked me if I intend to use the china I received in the near future. I said “absolutely” and she, herself a bride-to-be, agreed that china bought/owned/gifted ought to be china used at the dinner table. She explained that she and her mother don’t see eye to eye about it because her mom is of the mindset that one shouldn’t use the fine china. We both laughed about it, and it made me think about my own mother who received a lovely set of china from her wedding forty-two years ago. Not only is this set stunning, but it is also stunningly unused and remains the cornerstone of an old mini-museum in the midst of suburban South Florida.

What causes this mini-museum syndrome in so many households? You know, the china that sits on display for four or five decades. The stuff that gets taken out of the cabinet every now and then just to get cleaned, so it can go back on display dust-free. The stuff that’s reserved for ultra-special occasions…that never come.

I asked my mom why she doesn’t use that particular set of china, and she gave me an unbelievably long convoluted response that boiled down to “I hate washing china.” I sat and thought about it, and just to make sure I had it right I asked her point-blank, “So you don’t use the china because you don’t feel like washing it when you’re done?” Defensive reply : “I don’t want to prepare a big meal and then have to wash the china afterwards.” Fair enough.

The lovely Autumn pattern by Lenox, first introduced in 1918, comprises one portion of my mother's museum exhibit.

Elena’s mother’s reason for not using the good china: “It will break.” Isabel, another best friend: “No, we didn’t register for any [fine china]. We each had plate sets, and we decided we didn’t want to make people spend money on china if we already had plates. We actually just use a set of four that Mike’s mom left at our house that are these thin, inexpensive ones that won’t break if you drop them.” I spoke to another bestie, Maria Alejandra: “Ale, did you get fine china? Do you use it?!” She responded that she was eager to use her silver platters and trays and such, but being that they had temporarily moved to another state where they didn’t know anyone, there wasn’t much opportunity for entertaining. “But I don’t see the need for ultra-fancy plates because I think [you and I] are just too young for that.”

One day on Facebook, months later, Elena announced that she wouldn’t be registering for fine china after all. So with my ultra beloved set of vintage-inspired, toile-patterned china, it seems I’m fast becoming the dinosaur in my bunch.

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