Monday, February 09, 2015

Middle Son registers for his upcoming wedding; something begins to register with Curmudgeon, too

Middle Son is getting married at the end of May.

(Thank you.)

He and Margaret, his fiancee, were at Macy's yesterday filling out their greed list -- the selection ritual having been postponed a week by the Super Bowl Sunday Blizzard -- and Middle Son called from the store in the course of his ordeal.

"I see what you meant when you said I'd want to shoot myself in the face rather than do this," Middle Son began. Actually, I think I said I would gnaw off my right arm in order to get out of such an adventure -- a sentiment which did not endear me to Long Suffering Spouse at the time I voiced it, but there you are.

"I'm sorry for your troubles," I responded. I figured the kid would get around to the point soon enough.

"Yeah, well, I was wondering -- why would anybody need fine china?" Apparently, Margaret and my son had been given an enthusiastic sales pitch on the translucent virtues of fine bone china, but neither he nor Margaret could see any practical value in getting this sort of stuff. "I was hoping Mom would pick up," he confessed -- he did call the house phone first -- but Long Suffering Spouse was on the line with Abuela. Abuela had a full head of steam up about the pastor's latest outrage (which, as it turned out, was really nothing at all -- and I hate the guy). Long Suffering Spouse covered the phone for a moment long enough to tell me that Middle Son was trying to call, so I called him back on my cell phone.

I understood Middle Son's instinctive desire to speak with his mother on the subject of china, crystal and flatware. That's girl stuff, right?


I used to work in the local jewelry store, back in Boondockia, back in the day -- over 40 years ago now -- and, among my duties was delivering china and crystal and flatware -- and the occasional sterling silver tea service -- to local brides. I had inventory responsibilities, too, and sometimes -- though, obviously, I was never allowed to play with the diamonds -- I was obliged to pitch in on the sales floor and sell some of these fine gifts. I developed some definite likes and dislikes -- I even picked up four place settings of a beautiful, but discontinued, Hutschenreuther china pattern for my own 'hope chest' during the jewelry store's sidewalk sale my senior year of high school. My grandmother helped find four more place settings and the survivors sit, right at this very moment, in my dining room gathering dust.

I reminded Middle Son that I knew something about that stuff.

We chatted in circles for awhile -- I pointed out that, really, a wedding is the last time you can ever expect anyone to buy fancy stuff like this, stuff you will have forever, stuff you could never justify buying for yourself. I told him how, in my day, buying a place setting of someone's china as a wedding gift was a really good present, covering one's plate and then some at the reception. I went on in this vein, but Middle Son kept coming back to his original question... why would anyone need this stuff?

Well, I said, you might pull it out if you invite the boss and his wife over for a fancy dinner, or when you have a real, grown-up party with your close friends, or --

Middle Son cut me off. "You've never done any of those things."

"Well, no. But I could have." If the occasion ever arose.

Which it never has.

Long Suffering Spouse had waited out Abuela's latest indictment of the pastor by this time and came into the den.

She took over and covered the same ground -- Middle Son still couldn't answer that why question to his satisfaction. "I don't want a lot of stuff I'll never use," he said. "I'd rather have the cash." And we could explain all night that the cash will go away, but, looking into the china cabinet, even decades later, you can see proof of Aunt Martha's generosity, and be reminded how your college roommate bought four crystal wine glasses, and on and on for each object.

"Yes," said Middle Son, "but why would I want all that stuff I'll never use?"

And... slowly... I think slower and slower these days, I suppose... it began to dawn on me that the boy was right: The world has become an informal place. Sixteen ounce red cups have replaced crystal goblets, paper plates have replaced china (on state occasions, perhaps, Chinet might be used).

I don't know if that's a net gain or a net loss for the world. I miss the thought that, occasionally, even middle class people could aspire to a little glamor.

But no one, I think, misses the obligation of polishing the silver.


Steve Skinner said...

Stainless steel flatware is the only way to live.

Kacey said...

That Hutschenreuther china didn't happen to be Barronesque, did it? Since we ran off to get married, we had no fine anything. So, after about twenty years, I bought a service for 12 of Hutschenruther and used it faithfully along with fancy centerpieces and table linens for family dinners with the kids and grandkids, Now they have taken over the holiday duties and we are having the Chinet theme. So, I asked my s-i-l about putting it on eBay and he looked up the china and the sold prices. One dinner plate sold for $39.99. Woo Hoo!....and I have 12 6 piece place settings + all the serving pieces. Check yours out in the dining room and then hit eBay!