Cookin', Critters and Chillun

My mother’s china

When I was a little girl, I didn’t appreciate my mother’s china – or her crystal, or the drop-leaf mahogany table where I inevitably got stuck with a leg in front of me at dinner parties.

But now, I wish I could tell her that those two or three times a year when we have 12 or more people in to eat, we use that 1930s china she bought when she was a single lady. She probably ordered it from Sears, although it could have been Davison’s or Rich’s department stores in Atlanta.

A salad plate from my mother's 1930s china, pattern unknown.
A salad plate from my mother's 1930s china, pattern unknown.

At any rate, she kept the 12 place settings, complete with gravy boat and covered casserole dishes, in her Lane cedar chest when she rented a room in a boarding house in Tifton, Ga., before Mary Louelle Cobb met my daddy, a Yankee named John Bachner Gross.

Mother was all of 27 years old when they married, and she had decided she should go ahead and buy her own china because she probably wouldn’t ever get married. Their marriage lasted just shy of 50 years.

That first china is pale cream-yellow with a narrow aqua border and small clusters of flowers. I haven’t been able to find out its name. On the back, it only says “Made in Japan,” with a four-diamond symbol. The glaze is not smooth and it’s worn in places.

The plates are not what I always heard called “good china” – you know, the thin plates and cups and saucers kept in the china cabinet, which the children were always threatened to “be careful so you don’t break it” when you washed dishes by hand.

Most of us remember our mothers’ or grandmothers’ “good china.” “It was kept up in a hutch. We weren’t allowed to touch it,” said Rhonda Bland of the china her mother used to have. “It was brought out at Christmas and other special times,” she remembered.

For everyday, our family ate on Franciscan Ware apple pattern plates. We still have about three place settings and a couple of cups and saucers. I’m saving them for Haley, our youngest daughter, when she has room to keep them, she says.

Bill and I eat on our everyday deep blue Fiesta Ware plates we bought at The Pottery at Williamsburg for our 25th anniversary. Like Franciscan Ware, the plates are heavy pottery and resist breaking. We’ve only broken one.

Our “good china,” in turn, is the same Royal Doulton “Clarendon” pattern chosen by Princess Diana, as I recall. The china lives in the china cabinet and comes out for parties and at Thanksgiving.

All of it was wedding presents when we got married 41 years ago next month. That was back when people gave china and crystal and even silver for presents. Our silver was stolen long ago, during a break-in while we lived in Amherst County and when the price of silver went sky high. Sometimes I miss “Joan of Arc,” but our girls have a choice of their grandmothers’ sterling silver.

Each of the patterns of china, crystal and silver carries memories with it. I wish I could tell my mother that we still use china, her china. In the last years before she died at age 93, when her mind was on vacation, as we used to say, I would tell her that the china she was eating on used to be hers.

She would smile vacantly and say, “It’s pretty. I don’t remember it.”

4 Comments

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  • I was one the privileged guests to eat dinner on my Aunt Mary’s china when you all were living in Hollywood. Mmmm, loved those Hush Puppies!

  • Oh my goodness! I am sitting in my easy chair with soft music and the smell of my favorite Mocha-scented candle looking at the Our Valley website for the first time and I came across your blog. I didn’t know it was you but I knew I loved the name of the blog. So I opened it and read this one and it is just so fabulous!! Now I gotta read all of them. I can only do this when I’m not writing for the paper. I took a day off today and have been doing nothing much except the above mentioned since 9 a.m. Now I’m goint to bed and have sweet dreams.

  • beautiful story. and the ending, very real. lol even though they don’t remember , you remember for them. I just guilted my mom out of hers, and I love it, even though she never used it, (her wedding china) she told me the story of it and who gave it too her, (of course, the classy side of the family). But now that I have it , it seems alittle enept since I looked up all the pieces its still missing. gravy bowls etc. but figure I will add my memories to it and tell stories to my nieces and nephews about it and make the memories alittle more exciting , in hopes they will love and take care of it and memories to it and cherish it like I do. My mom is excited about it too. thanks again for the story, I felt alittle nerdy for liking it so much but feel cool now that I see people feel like I do.

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