When we got married (ages and ages ago!) I was particularly excited about choosing a china pattern. I don't know if modern brides "register" for china patterns and place settings any more, but it was still a very important thing to do in the 1970's. I spent hours and hours perusing the gorgeous displays on the third floor Fine China department at J.L. Hudson's, our best department store. Even though I adored the Royal Doulton floral designs, I finally settled on a white-on-white pattern made by Noritake, because I thought it would be versatile and I would have a better variety of choices for my table linens. (Wasn't I smart for a 20 year old?) I also liked the name of my pattern - Affection - which appealed to my quite romantic nature. Once I'd chosen my "fine" table service, I moved on to register for the "everyday" settings. Here I chose a floral pattern (tiny pink roses) on ironstone china, a heavy tableware meant to withstand daily use. I've always had a china fetish, though you wouldn't know it to look at the cheap Corelle dishes I've been eating from for the past 15 years. I love to set a pretty table, and enjoy looking at table settings in stores and on magazines. When we left our house in Florida last spring, intending to put it on the market, I actually set the dining room table with all my matching dish and glassware, and bought new table linens to coordinate. I remember when we looked at the furnished models that the table settings made the homes look so inviting.
Somehow using pretty dishes enhance the whole dining experience. Food even tastes better I think, when it's presented beautifully on lovely dining "elements." We traditionally had holiday dinners at our house (using the Affection china), and my father in law always remarked that the coffee was so much better in those china cups. My mother in law would say he was being silly, but I don't think he was. Aside from the fact that the coffee I made was fresh brewed and not the Taster's Choice crystals he drank at home, it did seem to taste richer when sipped from the silver rim around those delicate china cups.
I started thinking about china today because I was searching in the bottom of my china cabinet (yes, I also got one of those when I got married) for a silver baby cup that someone gave me when my son was born. To find it, I had to take out all eight place settings of Affection china from where they've been stacked inside the dark cabinet for the past eleven years.
Yes, it's been eleven years since I've used my "fine china." I suppose I should just pull it out of the china cabinet and use it everyday - why save it now? Aside from the fact that there's probably zero chance of hosting a dinner party or holiday meal in this house ever again, why not use something that might bring me a moment's small pleasure each time I sit down to eat?
I suppose there's still just enough of the eager young bride's mentality left deep within me that I want to safeguard my "good china." It represents an idealized time in my life, when I had so much still ahead of me. Giving it up for everyday use almost feels like giving up, like resigning myself to letting all those dreams go forever.
I'm not ready to do that just yet.
But I might leave out a couple of cups and saucers just for my morning coffee.
How about you? Do you have a set of "fine china" that means something special to you?