Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Afternoon Tea

Table set for Easter dinner a few years ago with the china I inherited from my mother-in-law... which belonged to her mother.

Recently I was reading Tea Celebrations (by Alexandra Stoddard) while sitting in the car waiting for my husband to finish photocopying receipts needed to keep on file.  When he returned to the car, I read him a sentence from the book which made us both smile... "My hair was combed in a page boy, held in perfect place, I recall, by Elizabeth Arden's Blue Grass hair spray."

For Blue Grass was the cologne we gave his mother one Christmas when she was no longer able to find her tried and true favorite of decades (I can't recall what it was).  She loved the scent but we would return year after year and see that bottle of Blue Grass, along with other perfumes, sitting pretty much unused on the vanity in the bathroom of the new addition to the house.

She had a tendency to wait for the perfect time to use her good stuff and that perfect series of circumstances never occurred.  When I went through her wonderful collection of vintage linens after her death, most fell apart in my hand where they had been folded and left in a box... unseen for who knows how long?  I remember right then I made a decision not to hide the good stuff away in a closet... ever.

My own mother had her own idiosyncrasy about using some items as I remember her nightgown was kept together with a safety pin but upon receiving a lovely gown from one of my siblings, she kept it in a drawer to use "in case she went to the hospital".  Of course, when she did go to the hospital, she wore the gowns they provide. 

I must admit perhaps my greatest vice is that of procrastination... made worse by this battle with fatigue which is fought in the trenches of chronic illness on a daily basis.  Still, there is no excuse for waiting on a perfect day or perfect occasion or when the weather is just right to celebrate that which is good and lovely and special on an everyday basis.

Oh, there are some things I do keep for special because one must be gentle with them.  Such as the Victorian china inherited from my husband's mother.  Still... I use it much more than she did which was mainly on Easter and if I take good care of it, perhaps Faith will use it some day for her family (Faith loves flowers).

Although the many serving pieces (the Victorians certain liked a lot of dishes!) are put away for most of the year, the plates are kept on a shelf in the kitchen... high enough to protect them but low enough to make them easy to reach when I want to set a special Spring-like table... set with the silver plated spoons, forks, and knives purchased while thrifting one year.

We have no furniture in the house which is not used as our collection of inherited antiques all sit next to garage sale finds.  The thrifted silver services are displayed (recently moved to their own little table), candles are lit, bone china mugs find their place beneath apple cider K-cups (they fit perfectly), and... as mentioned before... Christmas plates are used all year long because they are jolly and cheerful and a nice size.

While there will always be books unread... for I most certainly have lots and lots of books... there are none waiting for a special time.  Except perhaps the Dostoyevsky for such a day I'm willing to commit that amount of time.

Although the sentence from the book sparked these ponderings, so did the realization that Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner.  I am already giving myself a pep talk, a reminder that just because we do not "entertain" as we once did... although the children are on their own... and with the knowledge that it will be just the two of us here most of the time... it is important to get out the good stuff and decorate.

I am reminded of a few different years when we were in the midst of great trials and I didn't want to decorate, even with children at home.  But then I would remind myself that "This is their good old days", shake the mental and emotional cobwebs off, get out the boxes, and make the house as festive as possible.

For I realized that it is those very years when life is rather bleak that we need the joy which comes from being festive even more than usual.  We need to get out the favorite decorations and remind ourselves that there is nothing more special than family and friends and that even when we are alone we feel better when the candles are lit, the music is playing, the china is sparkling, and the food we have cooked is simple but delicious.

For even the small stuff makes a big difference in our emotional and spiritual health.  Upon returning from vacation, I bought two small mum plants to place on the deck table where they were seen for weeks whenever one of us sat in the recliner.

In a little over a month, I will decorate the Christmas tree and plug in the lights every morning as I have done for years and years and years... saying morning prayers and thanks by its' magical lights.

I never want my children to look through my things and wonder why their mother saved such beauty for a day which never came about.  Carpe Diem... :)


Rebecca said...

What a great reminder/motivation for me! I have similar tendencies to yours, and I feel I've just had a good pep talk. I needed that.

Susan said...

I love this post.

I was just up in Alaska where my parents live, helping to sort through my Mom's lovely things. (She hasn't passed, but has moved to assisted living, and it was time to thin out some of her treasures.) I'm happy to say that when she was healthy she used her pretty dishes and cups often. My memories were sweet as I saved a few treasures for me and my (adult) daughters.

Carpe diem, indeed! Thanks again for the reminder.

Mrs.Rabe said...

Seize the day, indeed!

We are the memory makers for our families...several years ago before my grandmother's death, she got to were she didn't 'feel' like decorating anymore - but she loved it. So we went over and decorated for her! The last year of her life (which we didn't realize) she decided to leave her little tree up all year since it made her happy.

I think your thoughts about not saving the 'good stuff' for a special occasion is wise - let's use it whenever the mood strikes us!

My husbands family has never been big on decor of any kind - the first Christmas we knew each other, I was aghast that he would be going home from school to his mom gone on a trip and no tree of any kind. He went out and bought a small tree! Due to my influence of course! lol!

Sorry for the novel...

Happy Sunday, dear Brenda!

Echoes From the Hill said...

My great grandmother was just like your mother-in-law. When she died her two daughters-in-law went through her things and were saddened to see all of the beautiful things she had received as gifts that were still in boxes, in her dressers.
I guess they were "too good" to use every day, or even on special occasions. I'm sure she liked the items, but didn't like herself enough to deserve them.

Anonymous said...

Good advice...we are paring down what we can now, in view of the future, but also, as I have been given things by our families, most of it was passed down. Having received things way past my being able to use them myself, I did want to share more with my own. Not sure it matters to them...but I have made the effort anyway.
Elizabeth in NC

Anonymous said...

The "Easter" dishes are lovely! What is the name of them? I have silver utensils but can't bring myself to use them as I am afraid of having to constantly polish. Do you have to polish yours often?

Anonymous said...

As I get older I can certainly see the reasoning behind having as bed set and robe ready in case needed. That the family knows they can just grab for us. Yet that does not mean we don't have likewise nice things we USE too! :) Your Granddaughter will have memories of your beautiful china since she has seen it used and has memories associated with it. She will both love it and cherish it for the family it represents to her. Yes we need to Use things instead of stocking them away like gold hidden away. If we don't use them..why not give them to one who will? Sarah

Karen Andreola said...

This post is beautiful. I can relate to your time of life when children are grown and have houses of their own to decorate and enjoy.
Your lines "those very years when life was bleak" remind me of the early years of lean times. We mostly rented houses and I tended to keep things in boxes knowing we'd be moving yet again. Then I began keeping seasonal decorations in a large wooden trunk placed with the family room furniture which made it easier to unpack and pack away again.
Visiting my blog friends, and reading of their decorating has been the pep talk I've needed these days. Thank you.
Karen A.

Vee said...

Yes, I have seen this in my own family and perhaps am guilty myself, especially with the "good dishes." But to have beautiful clothing and never wear it or lovely perfume and never dab a bit sad. Thank you. And thank you that we keep the holidays to pass on faith and hope and cheer. Sometimes we may feel hypocritical by doing so, yet we do it because... You hit your notes so beautifully, Brenda. Thank you!