Monday, May 16, 2011

Memories in the China Cabinet

No good deed goes unpunished, so the cynics say. Last week I decided that the glass doors of my china cabinet looked a bit streaked, so I decided to clean them. Unfortunately, that led to my actually looking into the china cabinet! Dust, dust, and more dust! Where did it all come from in a cabinet that's always kept closed?

Well, you know what happened. One job always leads to another, and before I had even made a decision to do it, I started taking things out. Three days and many, many dishwasher loads later, I finally finished!

But this isn't about a job that I clearly should have done sooner. It's about the precious memories that were lurking, nearly forgotten, inside that cabinet.

My mother's clear hobnail glass pitcher, for example. I washed that by hand, remembering hot summer Sundays, my parents' friends gathered on the lawn, the murmur of the adult conversation forming a reassuring background to the children at play. The glass pitcher was always filled with homemade iced tea, slices of lemon floating in it. For some reason, that was fascinating to a child. We kids didn't get iced tea, of course. There was lemonade for us, also homemade, served in paper cups. We scurried off, carrying our cups under the huge weeping willow in the backyard. The branches swept to the ground, and inside it was cool and shady. That willow tree cave was by turns a fort, a castle, or even a pirate ship, and willow switches made fine swords. I'd nearly forgotten those days, until a glass pitcher reminded me.

My mother-in-law has a place in the cabinet, too. She collected the amber depression glass, piece by piece, at a time when the economic future looked worse than it does today. She cherished those pieces, and I like to think each one gave her an extra bit of pleasure when she passed them on to her children.

The silver baby spoons aren't in my cabinet any longer, much as I loved them, especially the older ones that had been given to me by my mother and aunts. But when my grandchildren began to arrive, I knew it was my turn to pass on a memory. Fortunately there were for each grandchild as he or she arrived.

Are there memories stashed away in your china cabinet, too? I hope so. Our grandchildren are moving into a future that changes so quickly it seems impossible to keep up with. Family treasures, even small ones, can form a link, connecting them and us to our pasts.

If this inspires you to take a look, let me know what you find!



  1. I found in my cabinet something interesting--and puzzling. Long ago, when we were first married, my husband and I went on a cross country train trip from Washington, DC to Grandview, see his grandparents. She collected state teaspoons, which you can find at souvenir shops. I got her a Colorado one at the train stop and she loved it. Well, fast forward 23 years. I found that spoon in my cabinet--and don't know how it got there. Grandma and Grandpa died some time ago, and only visited them the one time. I GAVE her the spoon...don't know it came back to me.

  2. Somehow she gave it back to you! Such a sweet story...and maybe it's more fun not to know how it happened.