Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I have finally unpacked the Mikasa Fruit Panorama dinnerware and have it sitting in the cabinet over the baking center. We’ve even been using it for dinner several days a week, although if hubby sets the table, he uses our old Walmart china. 

The dinnerware

With a wine goblet we already owned

With a Village Pottery Della Robbia egg plate from Hungary 

I don’t remember why I kept the Panorama dinnerware in the attic for so long. I think it had something to do with being afraid to break it, although it is probably sturdier than the Walmart plates. In unpacking the plates, which were in their original boxes, I discovered I had been wrong about one thing. MIL had used some of the original set; just not the second set. She kept the original box, because she kept everything.

Unpacking and using the china of course reminds me of Eloise, my late mother-in-law. I have a lot of reminders of Eloise around the house. For one thing, there are the afghans. When Eloise’s sister died, she left behind her a lot of unused yarn in 1970’s earth tones and day-glo colors. Eloise, being the thrifty soul she was, crocheted the yarn into hideous but practical afghans. We have three of them, in addition to a quite beautiful afghan that I am not allowed to use because the cats might destroy it. I finally dealt with one by hiding it in a duvet cover, but the others, despite all my attempts to hide them, keep popping up around the house, at least in winter. The cats, I might add, are completely remiss in their duty to destroy the ugly afghans.

Rolled up afghan

It took me years to realize that Eloise was not just expressing her practical side in using up the last of her sister’s yarn. She was mourning her sister, and making sure that she would be remembered. If I had succeeded in banning the afghans from the house, I would have succeeded in banning a good bit of my husband’s family history as well. So I have made my peace with the afghans*, and try to use them as a reminder that I am not always right.

Her china and her silver represented something to Eloise, too. She and her mother and sister grew up poor after her father died, although helped out by her Uncle Charlie, who lived next door. Things improved for her during the second world war, when she moved to Washington and held a job in the then equivalent of data processing. She even got to see Eleanor Roosevelt up close once on an elevator, and often spoke of how Mrs. Roosevelt was not as unattractive as people say.

But it was as a married woman she achieved financial security, and she was extremely proud of the fact that her silver set had a butter spreader for every place setting, and her china had eight pieces per setting. That may have been why the gift of dishes was a sore point, although her relationship with her daughter was always rocky anyway.

I can relate to her being proud of all her pretty things. I’m that way myself, which is why I worried for so long that her pretty things were choking out my pretty things. It was John’s Aunt Mary who showed me another way of viewing things. When we visited her and Uncle Jack, she gave me a tour of her house that included many items which were gifted or inherited. She seemed to get a lot of pleasure from them.

I realized then that rather than seeing my MIL’s things as stuff competing for a place with my stuff (current or wished for), I could see it as part of the panorama of family history. Items that I had tucked away on drawers were given pride of place, at least on a rotating basis. 

I’m a rich woman, really. I have butter spreaders.

*Some poor child writing a current events paper for school is going to Google that phrase and be completely confused.

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