Twenty years ago, when my husband and I got married, it was considered appropriate, even expected, to register for a set of china and fancy glasses. In hindsight, this makes absolutely no sense. We were both teachers with a 900 square foot house. It should have been obvious that our opportunities for hosting 10 other people for fancy dinners were going to be few and far between (or nonexistent).
Maybe we were just optimistic and envisioned a future with a big dining room, lots of time to entertain, and perhaps the money to pay for a catering service. Ha! What we got instead was a big family, lots of activities and sports for our kids, and no extra cash!
When we moved to a different state last year, I thought long and hard about that china. My husband and I were seriously minimizing our possessions, and my new kitchen had no extra cupboard space. I didn’t want a bunch of dishes packed away in the basement, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to let go of them.
As far as I can tell, the purpose of fancy dinnerware is to mark special occasions and make guests feel special when they dine with you. Most people think of Christmas Eve, dinner parties, and milestone birthdays when they think of special occasions. I realized, though, that my definition of “special” has changed.
My kids are getting older (four out of five are tweens and teens), and I have a lot of years of memories to sort through. I know now that the special occasions are the everyday ones. The days when all seven of us sat down together to eat and laugh and talk. The days when we celebrated simple things like a good grade on a test, a win on the baseball field, or perfect summer weather. What I wouldn’t do to get some of those “special” days back!
I find myself wishing that I had used that china more often. I think it would have helped convey to my kids that their presence and place in our family is enough reason to celebrate. So what if a few pieces ended up scratched or broken? So what if, in the end, we actually used it all up?
A beautiful thing, used on the people we love, is never wasted.
Going forward, I’m planning to love my family by using the good china instead of storing it for something more special than our everyday life. We’ll use it when our daughter is home for a visit from college. We’ll use it on Fridays when we’ve made it through a rough week. We’ll use it on the picnic table this summer and for brunch after church. We’ll use it for frozen pizza from the grocery store and for specially chosen birthday dinners. Basically, we’ll use it for everything.
In 20 more years, when all we have are memories of these years together, I hope my kids will see that the life we lived with each other was special enough. It was special enough to cherish and nurture and celebrate. It was even special enough for the good china.