Inheriting the Family Dishes

published Jul 30, 2012
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

My family is firmly in the 99% (and probably the lower half of 99% at that) and yet there is a set of china and sliver that has been passed down a few generations that will one day come to me. I’m lucky because I think the china pattern is pretty and I love the silver pattern. But this is not always the case.

Inheriting your grandmother’s china can either be a delight or a burden, depending on a lot of factors. It’s a delight when the inheritance doesn’t prompt a family squabble and the pattern is one the recipient really appreciates. There is something special about bringing out your grandmother’s good china for an important event, linking the generations and paying tribute to a long-gone relative.

But if the pattern is ugly, or if your sister feels she should have been the recipient, then the family china becomes a burden, a source of pain and discomfort. How many long-standing family squabbles have started with the question of who gets Great Aunt Tillie’s silver candlesticks?

In addition, to truly appreciate the family china, it helps to be settled so you don’t have to constantly move it and that your house is spacious enough to store a formal set. There’s also the burden of taking care of it with careful washing to avoid chips and breakage and the cost of replacements when the inevitable does happen. And when is the last time you took an afternoon off and polished all the family silver?

It’s also true that times are changing and we are definitely in a more casual cycle of entertaining right now. It’s rare to go to a dinner party where fine china is used these days. Even formal dining rooms are in question.

Despite the potential bother, I’m looking forward to taking on the joy (and the responsibility) of my grandmother’s china and silverware. She was a wonderful grandma and my memories of her are sweet. It will be a pleasure to one day set my table with the dishes she picked out as a young bride. They’re not my style for everyday, but their meaning and emotional value is deep and true. Thank you, Grandma!

Related: Formal Elegance: Do You Own Fine China?