Using the ‘good stuff’. Something I’ve been pondering for quite a while. Let me clarify that I am not referring to any sort of illegal substance or even to the ‘good stuff’ referred to in the 2002 Kenny Chesney song! No, no, my friends. I’m referring to the ‘good stuff’ most Southern brides are showered with before marriage. China, silver, crystal, serving pieces, linens, etc.
This post does have a little bit of back story that I’ll give…
It would shock a lot of you to know that before getting married, I actually tried to dig in my heels a little bit about what all ‘nice’ things William and I registered for. I know not everyone is raised in a small town, but I was. I, thankfully, was smart enough to listen to my mother and mother-in-law and their less than subtle urgings that while I may not want eight place settings of china now, I sure as heck wasn’t going to want to pay for it later on. (I have actually had several soon-to-be brides approach me with this same question in the past few years and I have told them the same thing I was told. William and I were blessed to have countless friends and family members wanting to buy us gifts for our wedding. There have been so many times since I’ve gotten married that I have thought to myself, well, hey! I’m so glad I registered for that after all! So, while you do not need three sets of towels when you’re first starting out, register for them anyway. You’ll either get them, or you won’t. If you’re like me, three years down the road, you’ll be thankful you can swap out a set when the washing machine eats four of your towels and you still don’t have the money to go buy a full new set yourself. So thank you, again, to all who bought us towels for wedding gifts!!! I digress…)
So, while I started our engagement saying that I was not going to be like my mother or mother-in-law with all of their dishes and serving pieces…well…open mouth, insert foot. Five years later, I think I may actually be worse! At some point and time “Momma knows best” just started repeating in my brain over and over again and I just went with it. Bring on the countless china patterns (formal, everyday AND Christmas), silverware out my ears, crystal and glassware everywhere I look, and the list goes on and on.
Now, this is where I disagree with most Southern ladies. You get all of this stuff, and then what do you do with it? NOTHING. Which, I understand that to most of the rest of the world who sees this Southern tradition, that big ole ’NOTHING’ is exactly their point when they choose NOT to have all of this ‘stuff’. I’m not here to debate which category of folk is right or wrong. What I am here to debate is, if we’re going to have all of this ‘good stuff’, WHY DON’T WE USE IT!? This is something that I was determined to change in our own lives once William and I got married, and I’ve taken a particular charge to change since we moved to Portland. The added “I’m hauling all of this stuff all the way across the country and praying none of it breaks” pressure doubled my guilty conscience!
A few months back, I stumbled upon this blog post entitled ‘Use your good stuff’. This lady, with amazing taste I might add, articulated what I had been pondering for quite some time! She talks about going to estate sales and finding all of these treasures that were NEVER used. She reached a point when she thought to herself, “Is this what people are going to say at my estate sale!?” She began using, for example, a very expensive and personal vase her husband had given her for their 2nd Christmas together, and while someone may pick it up one day at her estate sale and notice its scratches and a chip or two, they’ll know that it was a loved treasure rather than something that stood collecting dust.
I’ve been thinking over the past few months on ways to use my ‘good stuff’ without making my guests feel uncomfortable or making dinner too ‘stuffy’. I know it is not for everyone, but for someone who really enjoys making a beautiful tablescape, why does it always have to be so formal? I think I’m making some progress, starting with dinner for two when it’s just William and I. I’m using our casual wooden chargers I bought at Crate and Barrel and I use my serving pieces that go with my ‘Everyday’ dishes almost every night. We’re using my cloth napkins and he sets the table for me each night. (yes, this means I wash and iron napkins a lot) I figure, if William and I are comfortable with what we’re doing, that’s the first step in making others feel that way as well.
I have no moral to this story, and I have no actual “end outcome”. But don’t be surprised if you’re at our house for dinner and my table is fully set. (and yes, I have been told by multiple people that when I have children all of this will go out the window, but both mine and William’s mothers did a pretty dern good job of sitting us down on real plates every night for dinner so I will give it my all!) I am always aiming to make others feel at home in my house, but this is my own little social experiement I’m running lately. Why does the use of our ‘good stuff’ have to be tied to a “special occasion”? Why can’t we use what we have for “everyday occasions”? Dinner with my husband is my time when I get his undivided attention. No phones, no TV, no distractions. Why can’t I bring my best to the table as well? (and yes, all kinds of puns and metephors intended)