A young mother dies when her son is 6. She had no sisters, so her brother’s wife packs away her wedding china. Thirty years later, after the boy is grown and married, the china reappears, causing problems. Here’s why:
“After my husband’s mother died when he was six, (his aunt) held it for 30 years until she handed it down to me,” writes Jafmina, who didn’t think anything was odd about the chain of possession. “I always just assumed that china was one of those things that was women’s business, and that it was appropriate that a woman held the china until there was another female to hand it down to.”
Jafmina’s father-in-law, however, felt differently. “My husband’s father has always felt it should have gone to him, for him to give to his son. It got me thinking, are there traditions regarding the passing down of china?”
It’s not unusual for physical possessions to arouse such strong feelings among family members. The reason that wedding china is often prized for generations, passed down from one family member to another, is because it is a tangible reminder of a family’s history: the holidays, the celebrations, the time Grandma put out her fancy teacups and saucers so the teddy bears could have a party.
There’s no etiquette rule, however, governing who enforces the tradition. And when your father-in-law looks at the china, who knows what he sees? It’s probably not just a stack of dishes. Maybe he remembers a day when he and his bride picked them out together. Maybe it’s a memory of watching her set the table for their first Thanksgiving dinner together. Or maybe it’s a sad recollection, because she died young.
For your father-in-law, the china may arouse emotions that he finds hard to put into words. Who knows what went on 30 years ago? I think a kind way to acknowledge his feelings would be if your husband thanked his father for the gift: whether one relative handed the dishes to you or your father-in-law had directly passed the dishes to him doesn’t matter. The result is the same. You’re lucky, because you kept the china – and the stories – in the family.
Do you have your mother’s china? Or your grandmother’s? What do dishes mean to you?
(Image via RealSimple.com)