I did something today which some purists might consider anathema. I spilt up a set of Minton fine bone china, Windermere pattern. And to make myself feel even more guilty it was bequeathed to me by my dear aunt. To be truthful it wasn’t a full set with serving dishes, teapot and all, but a set of beautiful dishes none the less.
The story of how I actually came into possession of this set is curious and laced with tragedy. My aunt died in 1996 and left a list of everything she wanted her only niece and 2 nephews to inherit. She had no children of her own. In 1999 my uncle, her husband, finally got around to bringing me the boxes of what he thought was ‘the Minton’. Turned out it was her everyday scuffed up, worthless dishes. The Minton languished in his Cleveland home until a few weeks after that fateful day when he delivered those worthless dishes to me, the same day he accidentally crashed his plane, killing himself and one other passenger. After his sad funeral I retrieved the Minton and many other of my aunt’s possessions.
Owning this set of Minton china has been a joy and privilege. In my cupboard it joined the set of good dishes we got as wedding gifts; the good china that you registered at Eatons or The Bay department store for your bridal trousseau. Up until fairly recently it was seen as important that couples picked out a pattern to collect and for folks to give as gifts. It was important to have a full set of matching china.
For 40 years I served lovely meals on it for family and guests. Alas the space for that type of entertaining and the conditions under which which I felt motivated to prepare and serve those beautiful meals have utterly changed.
Having rightsized to a small apartment from a 5 bedroom house nearly 5 years ago I have had these dishes sitting packed in a box. The only pieces of it I have used since moving are the double handled footed bouillon bowls with saucers. The are an elegant way to serve soup. And soup lunches are one way I am able to entertain my friends.
While trying to accommodate a small appliance into my cupboard this morning I came upon the box of dishes. The footed cups and saucers I have never used and am not likely to so off they go to the local thrift shop.
I am giving thanks to my Aunt Sylva as I look at these beautiful works of art. And the guilt is temporary because I know that someone else may enjoy actually drinking tea from the cups and saucers.
Gone is the thought of waiting for a special day to use ‘the good china’. Those days are here now and I enjoy using all the remarkable things which my ancestors left to me. I’m using a plate tonight for my supper.
I, too, have some lovely pieces of china I’ve acquired over the years. But unlike yourself, I don’t have any relatives gifting me lovely heirlooms. I grew up eating from mismatched dishes and using jelly jar glasses. One of the things I promised myself was to enjoy lovely dishes and tableware when I began an adult. After reading your post, I going to my cabinet and select a couple of pretty Wedgewood cabbage plates for dinner!