Let’s Talk with Maggie Toussaint

Thanksgiving musings – silver and china?
By Maggie Toussaint

 

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, my thoughts veer to the trappings of the holiday. How many families are currently washing the china and polishing the silver? It wasn’t something I ever thought I’d do as an adult, but gumption folds fast in the face of a determined sister.

Oh, how I fought against choosing a china pattern before my wedding.

“No point in it,” I said to Carol. “I already have a set of dishes.”

My sister ignored my complaints and dragged me to the appropriate store. “I’ll never use it,” I said. “This is a complete waste of money.”

“You need this,” she said. “Hush up and pick out something you like.”

The year was 1977 and, like everything else in the world, social movements and coolness took their time getting to the deep South. As a free-spirited introvert, I studied the prices and the formal patterns and saw nothing I liked. I complained some more, but eventually I caved, sort of.

My pattern has a lime green rim, a circular band of wildflowers, and butterflies. Perfect for someone of the flower child generation. I selected silver-plate flatware reminiscent of my mother’s pattern. Nothing too fancy or formal for me.

For the first few years of marriage, we didn’t pull the “good stuff” out at all because we went to my parents or his for Thanksgivings and Christmases. Kids arrived and then we hosted family for special occasions. The good dishes came out and even the kids were awed.

Now we’re at the other end of the rain barrel. The kids have kids and we’re often on the road for holidays. My china sits in the cupboard, stacked at the ready.

So, why did I need this? I’ve been thinking about the why part more and more these days. Best I can figure out, it’s a legacy that can be passed on, though my girls may feel the same way about this china as they did about my wedding dress—No Thanks.

I tried on other rationales: did it make me feel good (yes); did I love the folks who gave it to me (of course); how many other wedding gifts do I still have (most of them!); how many of them do I still love or use (not many). Hmm.

As best I can figure, selecting china was one of the few things in life that I did without considering anyone else’s opinion. I picked something that pleased me and still does. Whenever I need a smile, I pull out one of those plates or bowls and trace the design. It’s so me. A little offbeat and quirky, exemplifying strength and delicacy in an enduring combination.

Deep, huh?

Like me, my new sleuth River Holloway is a blend of traditional and original. We’re both hard workers. River gives from her heart and hearth, and people respond to her with a smile. She’s good at collecting information because people tell her anything!

Do you think River should have china? Chime in for a chance to win any book in the Maggie Toussaint catalog. Print book winners must reside in the US. The winner will be announced on Nov. 21.

While you’re here, click over to enter our November book giveaway. The contest runs Nov 1-18. Click Here

Comments

  1. maggietoussaint says

    Apologies for the day’s delay in selecting my winner. Since there were so many interested in this giveaway, I’ve selected two winners: Kara Marks and Jamie Minter. Congratulations to both ladies and thanks to all who participated! I hope you’ll check out my books at https://www.maggietoussaint.com

  2. Judy Donaghy says

    I just stumbled across this thread and recognized your name (I am a cousin of the rowdy Glenn boys with whom you are well acquainted). I loved all the stories about china. I picked out my first set at age 15 and still have it. I have my Glenn grandmother’s “second best” set, which I use daily; and my wedding china. It has a platinum band which must be hand washed, so is confined to holidays and dinner parties. I thought about getting rid of one set when I downsized, but my daughter reminded me that I have three granddaughters and three sets of china. She has two sets which she picked out, plus my mother’s wedding china; and my daughter-in-law has a set from her grandmother, plus one she picked out. I have all eight sets registered with a well-known china matching service so that broken or missing pieces can be replaced. I am so glad that all my girls share my love of china and the family history that goes with it. My granddaughters each have a favorite that they know will belong to them one day.

    • maggietoussaint says

      Hi Judy, it is so nice to connect with you here! I very much enjoyed reading about your sets of china and your rationale for holding onto the family sets to pass them on to another generation. For those of us who have traditional and sentimental leanings, china seems to be a touchstone of sorts. When my mother-in-law downsized to Independent Living and then to Assisted Living, she reluctantly gave up her mother’s bread bowl (for mixing and kneading dough) and a dented metal basin about the size of a knitting basket that served as her mother’s wash basin for years. These are Treasures and even my kids appreciate the multi-generational ties. I don’t make bread anymore and I don’t need a wash basin that big, but I pull those items out for big gatherings and we all get a little goopy-eyed thinking about the tireless hands that have used these items for decades. Hugs to your family for Thanksgiving!

  3. Roseann Moss says

    China is beautiful in SMALL amounts. I prefer cup and saucer (think fancy tea) and dessert dishes. That will be used, easy to wash and store. The other stuff is a hassle.

    • maggietoussaint says

      What a great idea to dress up drop-in visits with china tea cups and dessert plates! Thanks, Roseann Moss.

  4. Sandy Giden says

    I’d rather have a nice set of everyday dishes. My mom has China and it never gets used anymore.

    • maggietoussaint says

      I hear you, Sandy. I’m trying to remember if I used my china this year. I think I did, maybe, once!

  5. Jaime Minter says

    She should have china only if she wants it! I don’t have any and I don’t feel like I’m missing a thing.

  6. Martha Lawson says

    Yes, she should have china!

  7. katie cunningham says

    It’s a dilemma for me. I think you should have china only if you really want it and will use it all the time, but since you not supposed to put it in the dishwasher (especially the older hand painted pieces), that can be a deterrent. On the other hand, I’ve noticed in antique stores there are gorgeous full sets of china that just sit there, so why preserve something if no one will want it after you? Use the dishwasher. Those are my rambling thoughts, anyway.

  8. Rebecca Rookey says

    Everyone should have China even if it’s only used for special holiday get togethers. I was given a cedar chest when I was a senior in high school. I bought my China set plus silverware to go with it. The silverware has never been used. The China has been used for holiday dinners. It’s been almost 35 years since I purchased my China and got married. The only regret I have is the dishes are trimmed with gold so you can’t put them in the microwave. The floral design is still beautiful and I still love it. However I’m afraid that the next generations (my daughter & granddaughters) won’t appreciate having the China, as the tradition of owning “a good set of China” doesn’t seem to matter to them. After my death I’m afraid my good China will end up at the local Goodwill.

    • maggietoussaint says

      Hi Rebecca. You might be surprised by the sentimentality that your daughter and granddaughters may feel, since they also associate the china set with holidays. I know after my mom and step dad died, we had to break down their household. We each chose the things that we had always wanted, then came the Rest Of The Stuff. As we talked about family memories, each of us would add more items to our stack. Just because. Memories are potent. And it sounds like you’ve made many with your family. Hugs!

  9. I think it’s always nice to have a china set, even if you don’t use it much.

    legallyblonde1961@yahoo.com

    • maggietoussaint says

      Thanks for chiming in, Kara. Sometimes in our day to day life we forget that we are also surrounded by the best wishes of our family and friends. My china was accumulated bit by bit, mostly thanks to my mother-in-law, but still a lot of folks helped. I think of that when I see my china at holidays and in the case.

  10. Even if it’s never used, there’s usually some story behind it. We have sets from my grandma, great aunt, and great grandma. My father got into collecting carnival glass, and though it’s for show and not to eat off, every piece has a special look and a reason he liked it.

    • maggietoussaint says

      How lovely! So many memories to pass on to the next generation. Its true we can’t take our “stuff” with us when we die, but leaving a legacy of togetherness and shared memories makes those items priceless.

  11. Betsy Pauzauskie says

    As I child I spent many hours polishing silverware. It was beautiful and way too much work for me to enjoy both as a child and as I grew older. Thus, when our oldest daughter married, & was settled into a home comfortably, I gave her our silverware which she has used on occasion. As for the china, I found it beautiful and impractical for my personal mindset and lifestyle. However, I did have a stoneware pattern I liked and used for many years. Then, I found a Corelle pattern that was lightweight, not easy to break and had a fanciful pattern and colors I Truly Loved! Thus, I switched to using Corelle with Great Joy & Happiness! Today, gift registries for newlyweds speak to tradition, practicality, hobbies & blissl. We gave one couple a wedding gift with both fishing poles and serving pieces. When it comes to River, you know her bliss better than anyone and I urge you to speak to that! Will it be basic essentials, fine china, duck decoys, opera tickets . . . endless options for the unique circumstances encountered works best! It’s been enjoyable reading these responses!

    • maggietoussaint says

      Hi Betsy! You nailed it. We are all blends of tradition, practicality, hobbies, and bliss. I love your wedding gift of fishing poles and serving pieces. One of my most useful wedding gifts was a set of jumper cables. Still have them and have used on various occasions. As for my character River, she is big on traditional and practicality and her hobby/vocation is cooking. I’m beginning to think she will have several sets of china…

  12. Gloria Browning says

    China is a lovely thing to have but it seems less and less used.

    • maggietoussaint says

      Hi Gloria. I agree that china is lovely and used less each year by most people. We’ve become such a get-up-and-go society that opts for quick meals. The art of lingering over a meal had faded. I can’t begin to tell you how many of my family memories hark back to after-dinner conversation, all sitting in the ‘hard” chairs of the dining room. No one wanted to leave the table, so we sat and talked and nibbled and laughed. Good times.

  13. I think my wedding china was one of those from the grocery store where you buy so much to get a box free, but it was what I liked. I do bring it out for big family dinners, which don’t happen as often as I’d like. On the other hand, I use my Spode Christmas china every year, even if its just the two of us.

    • maggietoussaint says

      Hey there, Karla! Every set of china should have an origin story and yours has the most important prerequisite- you love it! And you’ve used that set to build forever memories for your family. it doesn’t get any better than that.

  14. Faith Creech says

    Yes, absolutely! China is something special and unique and something most girls don’t want anymore. But it makes a girl feel special when she uses it! I have a set of Royal Albert Bone China from when we were first married 42 years ago and still use it. I also have my mom’s collection of Royal Albert China tea cups. I use them every Christmas when the ladies from our church have our
    Christmas Tea. It’s so much fun to use fancy china!

    • maggietoussaint says

      What lovely stories and memories, Faith. You’ve established a tradition for not only your family but for your church ladies too. It makes me want to make a cup of tea in my china right now.

  15. Yes, she should have china, but with an interesting way of acquiring it like mentioned above.

    • maggietoussaint says

      Hi Debra. Thanks for chiming in. I’m starting to wonder if River might compulsively shop pawn shops for china sets and then gift them to people in her community…

  16. I did not pick a china pattern when I got married, or sterling. I picked out what they called pottery (stoneware), stainless flatware, and crystal. I had no input from husband-to-be since we were in different states. All he offered was he liked blue. Still have the stoneware and stainless; would love to dump the blue Reizart-Gorham crystal. We never use it and I can’t seem to pawn it off on anyone. I’m glad I didn’t get china way back when because my tastes have changed over the years and there’s no telling what I would have stuck myself with. Mom bought a china set when she was in her 50s and it came out twice a year. One of my nieces has it now; I never cared for the pattern. My mother-in-law had several sets but I managed to avoid winding up with any of them. I have two sets of stoneware; the original (with blue) and a cream set made from an English mold that is almost formal. Works for me!

    • maggietoussaint says

      To each his own, Pat! I had stoneware for many years and I loved that it was so sturdy. Then came the day I had trouble hefting the stack from the dishwasher onto the counter and into the cabinet. I never once thought about saving that set for the kids and I replaced it with a lightweight Corelle set. Interestingly, one daughter also started her marriage with stoneware and has since also switched to lighter dishes. Must be the power of genetics.

  17. Yes she should have china. But again, I have to agree that ours spends all its time in the china cabinet since we go to our family’s homes once we became elderly. Does my family want my china, heavens knows, but it is there if anyone wants it. Maybe I should see if anyone is interested now and clear out our china cabinet? hummmm

    • maggietoussaint says

      Hi Bobbi. How lovely that you’ve kept your china all these years. And it might make things easier for whoever handles your estate if you make a list of who gets what if they aren’t ready for it just yet.

  18. Linda Herold says

    Yes, River should have china. I still remember picking mine out so many years ago. Now I wish that I had used it more often instead of worrying about chips or breaks. You could share River’s “picking out china” story. Like the rest of us it will reflect her personality!

  19. I think a few pieces of china would fit in with elegant everyday dishes to be used on special occasions. Like a beautiful tea set or turkey platter. I doubt today’s bride would do that kind of formal entertaining.
    Can’t wait to read this book

    • maggietoussaint says

      Thanks for chiming in, Joye. My sleuth River is not much on formal entertaining, but she does like to show her food off to best advantage. Thanks for your interest in Seas the Day!

  20. I think River should have a discussion with someone, similar to the one you had with your sister, Maggie. Then I’d somehow weave the china into a mystery in your next book. 😉

    As for me, I do have china, but I rarely use it because it has a gold band around the edge and requires hand washing. The silver also has to be hand washed. That’s a lot of clean-up after a hosting a dozen people.

    What I treasure the most, though, are the champagne glasses that belonged to my grandmother. They’re from the Roaring Twenties and quite unique. I do use them often–well, at least as often as I drink champagne.

    • maggietoussaint says

      What a great idea, Lois, to have River discuss china with someone close to her. And oh boy, I understand your reluctance to hand wash your china and silver routinely. Though I have to tell you, some of the fondest memories I have are of washing and drying the dishes with my father-in-law. He told me, as he was drying the pots and pans I washed, that being the dish dryer was the most important task. That person had to make sure they got anything the dish washer missed. I thought that was hilarious, not realizing until much later that I might have been deficient in my pot washing. But the important thing is that we laughed and talked together, just us, and it became a pattern over the years – and I became better at pot washing!

  21. Yes, I would vote that she have china. When I was engaged, I didn’t register for china, thinking it was too expensive. I figured hubby and I would purchase it ourselves. My mother-in-law bought me a beautiful set of china–I’d have picked the pattern myself. It is ivory in color, trimmed with gold and has dainty rose, blue, and purple flowers. These are my favorite colors. I use my china whenever we host dinner unless it is a very casual event (like the indoor picnic we hosted this summer.) My mother-in-law is deceased, and I will always think of her with love and gratitude when I use my china.

    • maggietoussaint says

      Oh, Susan. I can tell how close you were to your mother-in-law, and how carefully she must have shopped to get your set just right for you. That is such a touching story. Thank you for sharing it.

  22. I think she should have china; however, rather than registering maybe she can find an awesome set cheeep at the thrift store. I see full sets of old china there all the time, some incredibly lovely. The kids just don’t want the hand-me-downs (that or they have their own china that no one will want later, either). I have a lovely set that hardly ever is used, mostly because there’s always been just the two of us and currently no family nearby. But down the road when we have a more formal dining area after our (hopeful) remodel, i’m tempted to do like they do at staged open houses and put out all my china on the table so I can admire (and maybe even eat off of!).

    • maggietoussaint says

      Oh! I like that idea of leaving the formal dishes out on the dining room table as decorations. I also love the idea of River finding a set of china at the thrift store. Thanks!

  23. Yes, River should have china perhaps that she inherited from a relative. I have four sets of china dishes and crystal that I’ve inherited from my mother and my aunt or we bought in our early married days. Now what to do with them? I use my fancy plates for critique group when not doing Fiestaware, so they get some use. Will our kids ever want them? Right now, neither child has a spare inch of room in their homes. But I’m loathe to give away any of my serving pieces, china, or silver tableware. Even if we move to be closer to our children, I want to keep these items. They’re precious to me even if no one else.

    • maggietoussaint says

      That’s wonderful, Nancy, that you have such deep sentiment about the dish sets. Do you think part of it is the link to our female ancestors?

  24. Yes, I think River should have China. I did not have China until we bought our present home. The former owner’s daughter had a set she was getting rid of (she had bought them at a yard sale) but were missing two pieces. I purchased them and went online to find the two missing pieces. I am very happy with my china! Thank you for the opportunity to win!

    • maggietoussaint says

      How lovely that you were able to acquire that set and fill in the gaps. Now you have such a treasure!

  25. When my Dad was stationed in Japan he bought a beautiful China set and sent it home. A few pieces were slightly damaged but we still use it for special occasions. I also inherited my grandmothers set. It’s so pretty with pink roses which is my favorite. There are a few pieces missing but I still treasure it and will most likely leave it to my oldest granddaughter.

    • maggietoussaint says

      How perfect that the set came from your dad! That in itself brings up memories, I’m sure. I think if I hadn’t been so determined to prove I didn’t need china I might have gone for something with pink roses. I have something like that, an orphaned piece, from my husband’s grandmother that I cherish.

  26. Yes, I think River should have china or maybe at least a discussion about why she doesn’t want a set. I chose my pattern while I was in high school and bought the whole set one piece at at time on payday. We used it as our everyday dishes when we first got married as it was the only set we had! Later, we used them for holiday meals and guests. After we decided to sell the house and downsize to an apartment, I split the set between my grandchildren. Traditions are family glue.

    • maggietoussaint says

      I love this story, Cheryl. You were so practical about how you acquired your set – it’s so you! And what a great idea to split the set between the grands. I need to keep that in mind for my set.

  27. Kay Garrett says

    Yes, I think River should have china. Yes, it is something we may not use much, but the times we do usually hold special memories. These memories become even more special with time after some of the folks in those memories are gone. To me taking them out or looking at them through the glass of a china cabinet remind me of those special people and times.

    Believe it or not, when hubby and I married, I had the crystal and silverware and he had the set of china. Perfect match right! Like most they set until we finally able to display years later in a china cabinet that we restored that had been through a friends fire. We had many special moments with the china including the first meal our daughter fixed for us. She used the china to make it a special time – and it was. Fast forward a bunch of years. Through inheritance I now have the china from both my Grandmother and my Mom. Our china cabinet now is an Amish made one and through the glass I can see prominent displays representing all three sets of china – three styles owned by three different generations, but all special to me because of who owned them and the special times we used them. They are all gone now to their heavenly home – daughter, Mom and Granny, but the china brings back a flood of memories of happy times and great meals shared together.

    Thank you for the wonderful opportunity to win a copy of a book in the Maggie Toussaint catalog.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    • maggietoussaint says

      Kay, I got the good kind of chills as I read of your connection to your daughter, mother, and grandmother through those dishes. Special occasion memories linger in our minds so vibrantly. It’s wonderful to have that emotional connection through the river of time.

  28. When I got married (1969), I figured if I chose silver and china patterns, given the economic status of the family, I’d end up with a few plates, a couple of forks, and maybe one piece of crystal. Later, my aunt gave me a bunch of her odds and ends silver, which now reside at my daughter’s house. It’s everyday every day around here, although we’ve gone through numerous iterations of dishes and flatware.

    • maggietoussaint says

      I certainly understand your perspective, Terry. I have been through numerous sets of everyday dishes as well. The first couple of sets didn’t survive a busy young couple and two active kids. Then eventually, the stoneware plates we had became a problem for me to lift. I shifted to plain Corelle dishes and then a few years back saw a pattern reminiscent of my china pattern and had to have it. If anything, my kids may fight over the everyday stuff instead of the china.

      • Now, my mother has a HUGE china set, down to soup tureens and gravy boats that the family brought over when they came to the US. My brother, the chef, has claims on it, and I am more than happy for him to have it.